US officials said on Wednesday they believe North Korea launched four missiles from its military test range, prompting an American military response.
The launches were the first direct test of a missile system the North claims to have developed and is believed to be capable of reaching targets in the United States.
The tests occurred in a single day and followed a similar missile test in October.
The first missile, fired from a ship at sea, appeared to miss its target, a large building in South Korea, according to the US Pacific Command, which operates the US military’s Pacific Command.
The US Pacific commander, Admiral Harry Harris, said the missile launch was a “provocation” and the Pentagon would respond.
“These launches, if they occur, are provocative and could escalate tensions,” Harris said.
“They would have been a direct response to previous North Korean provocations.
We will respond to any provocative North Korean activity.”
The US military did not provide details on the missile or where it came from, but said it was capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
The Pentagon said the launches were a sign of the North Korean government’s increasing desperation.
“The actions of North Korea over the past few weeks have underscored the North Koreans inability to deter U.S. forces from the South Korean capital and Seoul,” Harris wrote in a statement.
North Korea’s latest missile launches followed its fourth and fifth nuclear tests in April, and the latest test showed the North is working on developing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that could hit the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Australia and other Western nations.
The North conducted its fourth nuclear test on Wednesday, a test that experts believe to be the most powerful to date.
The country has said it is seeking to build a nuclear bomb.
The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday condemned North Korea’s “provocative” missile launches and warned of a “serious and widespread threat” to regional peace and security.
The U.N. Security Council urged all parties to exercise restraint in the face of a North Korean nuclear and missile test and called on the North to refrain from further provocations and to refrain, and, as necessary, undertake, “significant and sustained measures” to curb nuclear, missile and other missile threats.
The council also called on North Korea to cease its activities that “have a clear and present danger of causing unnecessary harm or causing damage to civilians or international peace and stability and, in particular, to nuclear weapons”.