North Korea could face more sanctions in the wake of its latest ballistic missile test on Sunday, which has sparked alarm as it is seen to be a significant enhancement in Pyongyang's nuclear armoury.
This is set to be on the agenda at an emergency United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting in New York yesterday evening (Singapore time this morning) requested by the United States, Japan and South Korea.
China and Russia yesterday also condemned the launch for having violated UNSC resolutions, but urged parties to exercise restraint to avoid escalating the situation.
The test-fired weapon - dubbed the Pukguksong-2, or Polaris-2 in English - is a new type of solid fuel intermediate-range ballistic missile modelled after the submarine- launched ballistic missile that Pyongyang tested last August, military sources told the South's Yonhap News Agency yesterday.
Pyongyang has touted the weapon's ability to carry a nuclear warhead, and the North's state news agency KCNA said leader Kim Jong Un yesterday "expressed great satisfaction over the possession of another powerful nuclear attack means which adds to the tremendous might of the country".
Japan's top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said yesterday that Sunday's test proved that the North's ability to put a miniaturised nuclear warhead on a missile has improved. Urging China to take the lead, he said: "As a permanent member of the Security Council and chair of the six-party talks, and as a country that accounts for 90 per cent of North Korea's trade, China's role is extremely important."
The six-party talks refer to a stalled dialogue mechanism involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, the United States and Russia, while the UNSC comprises five permanent members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the US - and 10 non-permanent members, including Japan. "As the government, we will continue to push China for constructive involvement at various levels," the Japanese spokesman added.
Speaking hours later, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said: "The root of the North Korean nuclear issue is the contradictions between North Korea and the United States, and North Korea and South Korea."
He added that China, as a responsible member of the UNSC and the international community, has always fully implemented the relevant resolutions and made efforts to push for a solution. "We believe dialogue and consultation are the ultimate solution to the peninsula issue and hope all parties concerned can shoulder their responsibilities and do what they should do."
Last year, Pyongyang carried out 24 missile launches and two nuclear tests. Sunday's test is seen as a show of force against US President Donald Trump and came as he was meeting Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe.
•Additional reporting by Goh Sui Noi in Beijing