North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Sunday celebrated a test of the "perfect weapon system" after the nation launched what it claimed as a new kind of intermediate-range ballistic missile system which can carry "a large-size heavy nuclear warhead."
United States rocket scientists said the missile launched by North Korea on Monday showed considerable progress the country made towards developing an intercontinental ballistic missile which can reach America.
While North Korea has threatened the US with a pre-emptive strike in case of any military action, the US has pressured the North economically and diplomatically. The US said "military options" remain on the table if the Korean nation continues to pursue nuclear ambitions.
North Korea has carried out a total of five nuclear tests so far, and according to an expert satellite imagery analysis, Pyongyang may be preparing for a sixth test soon.
"North Korea's latest successful missile test represents a level of performance never before seen from a North Korean missile," said John Schilling, an aerospace engineer who specialises in rockets. Schilling said the latest test means North might be just a year away from developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The initial estimate for the country developing an ICBM was five years.
Pyongyang's latest missile launch was condemned worldwide, with the US calling North Korea a "flagrant menace" and urging allies to impose even stronger sanctions on the nation. South Korea and Japan also strongly condemned the missile test.
North Korea's state media on Sunday released the first photo of the launch saying it was a "new ground-to-ground medium long-range strategic ballistic rocket", dubbed Hwasong-12.
The Korean Central News Agency said the new missile used a reentry vehicle capable of delivering a warhead to a target.
"If the U.S. dares opt for a military provocation against the DPRK, we are ready to counter it," the agency said, using the abbreviation for North Korea's official name.
"If the US awkwardly attempts to provoke the DPRK, it will not escape from the biggest disaster in the history," the agency quoted Kim as saying. "The US should not disregard or misjudge the reality that its mainland and Pacific operation region are in the DPRK's sighting range for strike and that it has all powerful means for retaliatory strike."