SEOUL North Korea said on Sunday it had tested a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) the previous day in a sudden launching drill that confirmed its readiness for mobile and mighty counter-attack against hostile forces.

North Korea launched a long-range ballistic missile into the sea off Japans west coast on Saturday afternoon after warning of a strong response to upcoming military drills by South Korea and the United States.

The surprise ICBM launching drill…is an actual proof of the DPRK strategic nuclear forces consistent efforts to turn its capacity of fatal nuclear counterattack on the hostile forces into the irresistible one, state news agency KCNA said. DPRK stands for North Koreas official name, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea.

In a separate statement on Sunday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Uns sister, Ms Kim Yo Jong, bristled at the US for trying to turn the United Nations Security Council into what she called a tool for its heinous hostile policy towards Pyongyang.

I warn that we will watch every movement of the enemy and take corresponding and very powerful and overwhelming counteraction against its every move hostile to us, she said.

South Korea later said it held an air drill with the US on Sunday involving a US strategic bomber in response to the Norths ICBM launch.

Saturdays missile test, the Norths first missile firing since Jan 1, came after Pyongyang threatened on Friday an unprecedentedly persistent, strong response as South Korea and the US gear up for annual military exercises as part of efforts to fend off the Norths growing nuclear and missile threats.

The state news agency said the missile had flown for 1 hour, 6 minutes and 55 seconds, as high as 5,768km, before accurately hitting a pre-set area 989km away in open waters. Hwasong-15 was first tested in 2017.

Japan said on Saturday the missile had plunged into waters inside its exclusive economic zone. Without warning

Nuclear-armed North Korea fired an unprecedented number of missiles last year, including ICBMs capable of striking anywhere in the US, while resuming preparations for its first nuclear test since 2017.

South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin said Saturdays launch clearly signals the Norths intent to conduct additional provocations.

If North Korea conducts the seventh nuclear test, which could happen at any time, it will be a game changer in a sense that North Korea could develop and deploy tactical nuclear missiles, Mr Park told the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

The launch, guided by the Missile General Bureau, was conducted on an emergency firepower combat standby order given at dawn, followed by a written order by Mr Kim at 8am (2300 GMT on Friday), the KCNA said. South Koreas military said it detected the missile at 5.22pm (0822 GMT).

The important bit here is that the exercise was ordered day-of, without warning to the crew involved, said Mr Ankit Panda, a missile expert at the USbased Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The amount of time between the order and the launch is likely going to be decreased with additional testing.

The military unit got an excellent mark over the test and the Norths ruling party highly appreciated the actual war capacity of the ICBM units which are ready for mobile and mighty counterattack, KCNA added.

Analysts say North Korea is likely to conduct more weapons tests, including a possible new solid-fuel missile, which could help the North deploy its missiles faster in the event of a war.

North Koreas ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programmes are banned under UN Security Council resolutions, but Pyongyang says its weapons development is necessary to counter hostile policies by Washington and its allies.REUTERS More On This Topic North Korea threatens unprecedented action over allied military drills North Koreas evolving nuclear threat too great to deter?

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