Image taken from news bulletin aired by North Korea's KRT.

KRT / AP

North Korea announced on Tuesday that the country has tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile — potentially its most powerful weapon yet, and possibly capable of reaching the United States.

The announcement came hours after US and South Korean defense officials said North Korea had launched a missile from the country's North Phyongan province, which reached an altitude of 2,500 km and was tracked for 37 minutes before it fell in the Sea of Japan.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said that the missile may indeed be an ICBM. The US Pacific Command, in a statement, said the missile was a “land-based, intermediate range ballistic missile” and the launch “did not pose a threat to North America.”

"Respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un signed the order to carry out the test-fire of inter-continental ballistic rocket Hwasong-14 on July 3," a statement from Korean Central News Agency said.

This image made from video of a news bulletin aired by North Korea's KRT on Tuesday, July 4, shows what was said to be North Korea leader Kim Jung Un, center, applauding after the launch of a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, ICBM, in North Korea's northwest.

KRT / AP

Tuesday's test comes after a series of missile tests earlier this year, as the United States looks to check North Korea's ability to build a nuclear-tipped missile that could reach the US.

As news of the test emerged, President Trump took to Twitter to criticize Kim Jong Un, and appeared to ask China to put pressure on him. However, he has not made clear how his administration will encourage Beijing to do this.

North Korea's missile test comes days after South Korean president met with Trump in Washington, and just days before of the Group of 20 meeting in Hamburg, where the US president will meet with other world leaders, including China's Xi Jinping.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that his country would "unite strongly" with the US and South Korea to pressure Pyongyang. The country's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, speaking to reporters earlier, said: "North Korea's repeated provocations like this are absolutely unacceptable."

Speaking at a regular news briefing on Tuesday, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry called for calm and restraint, repeating a line the country’s diplomats often use in response to North Korean missile tests.

A top Chinese policy expert on North Korea said, however, that Trump’s hopes for a “heavy move” by China might be misplaced.

“At its heart, the North Korean nuclear issue is a problem to be resolved between North Korea and the US. North Korea is reacting to the US,” Lu Chao — director of the Border Study Institute at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, a government think tank in northern China — told BuzzFeed News.

“China will strongly condemn this test and enforce any measures taken by the UN Security Council — but the US should not try to push its responsibility onto China,” Lu said.

Critics have long held that North Korea has failed to adequately enforce international sanctions on North Korea by turning a blind eye to illicit trade in everything from dual use materials to luxury handbags and cars.

China strongly denies the charge, though it has in the past worked to weaken UN sanctions on Pyongyang.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates and follow BuzzFeed News on Twitter.


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