North Korea fired a missile on Friday that experts said was capable of hitting Los Angeles and other U.S. cities and the United States and South Korea responded by staging a joint missile exercise.
North Korea confirmed the launch on Saturday, with its official news agency saying it was a "stern warning" for the United States. President Kim Jong Un said the missile showed that all of the United States was within striking distance but U.S. authorities characterized that as an exaggeration.
The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, which has branded North Korea the "most urgent and dangerous threat to peace," condemned the launch as reckless.
"By threatening the world, these weapons and tests further isolate North Korea, weaken its economy, and deprive its people," President Donald Trump said in a statement. "The United States will take all necessary steps to ensure the security of the American homeland and protect our allies in the region."
South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo said at a news conference on Saturday Seoul would prepare independent measures to curb the nuclear threat from the North.
Top US and South Korean military officials discussed “military options” in response to North Korea’s latest test of what the Pentagon called an intercontinental ballistic missile. South Korea has requested additional missile defense units from the US.
Following Friday’s launch, Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, and head of the US Pacific Command Admiral Harry Harris called General Lee Sun-jin, chairman of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“During the call, Dunford and Harris expressed the ironclad commitment to the US - Republic of Korea alliance. The three leaders also discussed military response options,” said a statement from the Pacific Command, confirmed to Reuters by Dunford’s spokesman Captain Greg Hicks.
US and South Korean militaries staged a “joint ballistic missile exercise” in response to the North Korean launch.
A statement by US military said the missiles were fired into "territorial waters of South Korea along the East Coast," Reuters reported.
“The North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America,” said Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis.
Japanese officials said the missile flew for 45 minutes and reached an altitude of more than 1,860 miles (nearly 3,000 km).
“As a result of their launches of ICBM-level missiles, this clearly shows the threat to our nation's safety is severe and real,”Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a statement, adding that he would be convening Japan’s National Security Council.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned North Korea's launch of a "ballistic missile of possible intercontinental range," his spokesman said on Friday.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has requested renewed talks with the US on deploying additional Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense systems, his office announced.
Before the July 4 test of the KN-20, US intelligence believed that North Korea wouldn’t have long-range strike capability for four more years. New intelligence estimates, however, suggest the ICBM might have have the range to hit the West Coast of the US, and not just Alaska and Hawaii, the Washington Free Beacon reported Wednesday.
“Time is running out” for diplomatic and political efforts to resolve the standoff with North Korea, US Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley warned on Wednesday, adding that there were “no good options” on the table but that a choice will have to be made.