North Korea claims ICBM launch, bringing US and Darwin within range

Beijing: North Korea has claimed its first successful launch of an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, defying a tweet by US President Donald Trump in January that "It won't happen!".

Experts estimated that if the missile had been launched at a "normal" angle, instead of the steep trajectory used in the test, it could have flown more than 6000 kilometres, a distance that would see it reach the US mainland.

This range also brings Darwin within reach.

The North Korean state news agency KCNA said on Tuesday afternoon that an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile was launched at 9am under the supervision of leader Kim Jong-un.

"It flew 39 minutes on orbit, before striking a preset target in open sea," KCNA reported. North Korean state television released images of the missile and showed the order that Mr Kim had personally signed for the test.

The Hwasong-14 rose 2802 kilometres and flew 933 kilometres.

"With its nuclear weapons, the DPRK, as a proud nuclear power with the most powerful ICBM which is able to strike any corner of the world, will fundamentally root out the US's nuclear war threat and confidently safeguard peace and stability in Korean Peninsula and the region," the report proclaimed.

Experts in South Korea and Japan had already warned the missile may have been an ICBM.

A picture from North Korean media which purports to show the intercontinental ballistic missile launched on July 4, 2017. Kim Jong-un is apparently standing on the right, in a dark suit. Photo: Supplied

A picture from North Korean media which purports to show the intercontinental ballistic missile launched on July 4, 2017. Kim Jong-un is apparently standing on the right, in a dark suit. Photo: Supplied

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said: "I hope North Korea will not cross the point of no return."

An ICBM test, or a nuclear test, by North Korea have been widely seen as red lines that would provoke new United Nations Security Council sanctions, or a tougher response from the United States.

The Trump administration had declared the "era of strategic patience was over" with North Korea, and had earlier in the year suggested that it could take military action. However this approached then softened in favour of working with China to enforce sanctions.

The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, told NBC in April that an intercontinental ballistic missile would be cause for the US "to do something".

People watch North Korea's KRT television announcing the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Photo: Getty Images

People watch North Korea's KRT television announcing the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Photo: Getty Images

"If you see him attack a military base, if you see some sort of intercontinental ballistic missile, then obviously we're going to do that," she said.

Mr Moon on Tuesday called for UN Security Council action in response to the new missile test, which came within days of his first meeting with Mr Trump.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said "China is against the DPRK's launch, which is in violation of the UN Security Council resolutions". He called for calm.

The ICBM launch came as tensions re-emerge between China and the United States, which last week agreed to a controversial $1.42 billion arms deal with Taiwan.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in at a meeting of the country's National Security Council on Tuesday. Photo: Handout

South Korean President Moon Jae-in at a meeting of the country's National Security Council on Tuesday. Photo: Handout

Mr Trump called Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday, with Chinese state media reporting that Mr Xi had told him relations have been affected by "some negative factors".

China is pushing for a return to dialogue with North Korea, and a halt to South Korean and US military exercises on the Korean Peninsula in return for a North Korean freeze to weapons testing.

Mr Xi met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Tuesday, where they said they had agreed to strengthen coordination on North Korea.

Some analysts have suggested North Korea's acceleration of tests was a way of strengthening its bargaining chips before sitting down at the negotiating table with the US.

Before the confirmation of an ICBM, Mr Trump had tweeted his frustration with North Korea, writing: "Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all."

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australia condemned Pyongyang's "provocative ballistic tests", noting they breached numerous resolutions of the UN Security Council.

Euan Graham, director of international security at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, said early analysis indicated Pyongyang had make a major breakthrough in its missile program.

"There is now the capability to reach northern Australia, that will get it to Darwin and further south," he said.

Dr Graham said the breakthrough raised "embarrassing questions" for US President Donald Trump, given his Twitter declaration in January.

"What they've done just this year since February is to demonstrate a new proven missile capability in all four significant ranges," he said.

Dr Graham said there were "no good unilateral options" for the US.