North Korea fired a missile on Friday that experts said was capable of hitting Los Angeles and other U.S. cities and the United States and South Korea responded by staging a joint missile exercise, Reuters reported.
North Korea confirmed the launch on Saturday, with its official news agency saying it was a "stern warning" for the United States. President Kim Jong Un said the missile showed that all of the United States was within striking distance but U.S. authorities characterized that as an exaggeration.
The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, which has branded North Korea the "most urgent and dangerous threat to peace," condemned the launch as reckless.
"By threatening the world, these weapons and tests further isolate North Korea, weaken its economy, and deprive its people," President Donald Trump said in a statement. "The United States will take all necessary steps to ensure the security of the American homeland and protect our allies in the region."
South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo said at a news conference on Saturday Seoul would prepare independent measures to curb the nuclear threat from the North.
"This ballistic missile launch by North Korea is a serious provocation that not only clearly violates the U.N. Security Council’s numerous resolutions but also threatens the safety of the Korean peninsula and world peace," Song said. "The joint governments of South Korea and the United States will firmly punish North Korea for its missile provocation."
He said steps would be taken to hasten the temporary deployment of THAAD anti-missile units from the United States.
The unusual late-night launch added to exasperation in Washington, Seoul and Tokyo over Pyongyang's continuing development of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Friday's test prompted U.S. and South Korean military officials to discuss military response options.
The North Korean military had already raised alarms early this month with its first ICBM launch.
The top U.S. military official, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford, and Admiral Harry Harris, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, spoke by phone with the top South Korean military official, General Lee Sun-jin, to discuss military response options to the launch.
The Trump administration has said that all options are on the table, including military ones, however it has also made clear that diplomacy and sanctions are its preferred course.
Following a meeting of South Korea's National Security Council, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said he wanted the U.N. Security Council to discuss new and stronger sanctions against the North, the presidential Blue House said.