North Korea claims it has successfully tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that is capable reaching a target anywhere in the world.
North Korean state television reported that in a July 4 test-launch, the Hwasong-14 missile reached an altitude of 2,800 kilometers and hit its target after flying for 39 minutes.
Western weapons experts said the July 4 launch may be North Korea’s most successful missile test. They described the weapon as an intermediate-range missile that may be powerful enough to reach Alaska.
The test is North Korea's latest step to develop a nuclear-weapons delivery system that is able to hit any part of the United States.
South Korea's military said the missile traveled 930 kilometers on July 4 before falling into the Sea of Japan near Japan's exclusive economic zone. That is just short of a medium-range ballistic missile.
Japan's government confirmed that the missile "greatly exceeded" the altitude of 2,500 kilometers, meaning the missile went into space before reentering Earth's atmosphere.
Japan said it believed the test involved an intermediate-range missile but was investigating whether it could have been an ICBM.
One U.S. missile scientist, David Wright, said that if the reported time and distance are correct, the missile would have had a very highly arched trajectory.
Based on the reported time and distance, Wright estimated that the missile could have a possible maximum range of 6,700 kilometers if it was fired at a normal trajectory.
That would put Alaska within in its range.
U.S. officials said the test appeared to involve an intermediate-range missile, but not an ICBM.
U.S. President Donald Trump reacted on Twitter, saying it's "hard to believe that South Korea...and Japan will put up with this much longer."
Trump urged North Korea's biggest ally, China, to "put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!"
In a joint statement, Russia and China said they agreed on the need for a simultaneous freezing of North Korea's missile and nuclear programs and large-scale military exercises by the United States and South Korea.
The statement was issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry following talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, in the Kremlin.
It also said that Moscow and Beijing wanted Washington to immediately halt its deployment of the THAAD antimissile system to South Korea, a move the United States says is necessitated by the North Korean missile threat.
China earlier called for "restraint" by all parties following North Korea's latest test, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang saying Beijing firmly opposed any actions by North Korea that contravene UN Security Council resolutions on its missile launches.
Meanwhile, Russia's Defense Ministry dismissed the analysis by scientists in the United States, Japan, and South Korea -- saying the missile reached an altitude of only 535 kilometers and traveled 510 kilometers from the launch site before it fell into the Sea of Japan.
Japan strongly protested what it said was a clear violation of United Nations resolutions.
South Korea's Foreign Ministry condemned the test as a "reckless" provocation that violates UN Security Council resolution and the global demand for North Korea’s denuclearization.
The missile was launched from an airfield northwest of North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang.
It was the latest since Pyongyang fired several cruise missiles in early June and comes ahead of a Group of 20 economic powers meeting in Hamburg, Germany that will include South Korea, Japan, and their Western allies.
The launch came just days after South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Trump met in Washington and agreed that they should leave the door open to possible talks with North Korea on denuclearization.
The launch also occurred ahead of celebrations in the United States marking Independence Day on July 4. North Korea has previously test-fired missiles around the U.S. holiday.
Pyongyang has been working for years to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the continental United States.
With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, and Yonhap