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North Korea Says It Tested New Missile That Can Reach Entire U.S. Mainland

Pyongyang has test-fired several missiles this year, including intercontinental ballistic missiles. (file photo)

North Korea claims to have tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the entire U.S. mainland in its latest launch in defiance of UN sanctions.

Pyongyang's state television said early on November 29 that a missile fired into the Sea of Japan hours earlier was "significantly more" powerful than a long-range weapon tested earlier this year. It called the new missile a Hwasong 15.

The U.S. Defense Department said that it detected and tracked a missile launched from Sain Ni, North Korea, that traveled about 1,000 kilometers before landing in the Sea of Japan on November 28.

The Pentagon said that an initial assessment indicated it was an intercontinental ballistic missile.

"Our commitment to the defense of our the face of these threats, remains ironclad," a Pentagon statement read.

Speaking about the rocket launch, U.S. President Donald Trump said, “It is a situation that we will handle." He did not elaborate.

Trump conferred by phone with the leaders of Japan and South Korea about the "grave threat" posed by the missile launch, the White House said. The launch was condemned separately by NATO, the European Union, and the United Nations.

The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said North Korea launched a ballistic missile at around 6:17 p.m. GMT from Pyongsong in South Pyongan Province over the sea between South Korea and Japan.

Seoul said it responded to the launch with a missile-firing test.

"We will never yield to any provocative act," Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said. "We will maximize our pressure" on Pyongyang.

The UN Security Council scheduled an urgent meeting on November 29 to discuss the matter, the U.S. mission to the UN said.

Pyongyang has test-fired several missiles this year, amid increased tensions over its nuclear program.

It fired an intermediate-range missile over Japan in September, days after it carried out its sixth and most powerful nuclear test.

An intercontinental ballistic missile test, if confirmed, would signal further progress by North Korea in developing a weapon of mass destruction that could strike the U.S. mainland.

In a statement on November 28, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on the international community to continue sending "a unified message" to North Korea that it must abandon its programs into weapon of mass destruction.

"All nations must continue strong economic and diplomatic measures," the statement read. " In addition to implementing all existing UN sanctions, the international community must take additional measures to enhance maritime security, including the right to interdict maritime traffic transporting goods to and from" North Korea.

It also said that "diplomatic options remain viable and open, for now," adding that the United States "remains committed to finding a peaceful path to denuclearization and to ending belligerent actions by North Korea."

A week ago, the U.S. administration designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism and imposed new sanctions against the country over its nuclear program.

With reporting by AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa, and the BBC