North Korea launches four ballistic missiles by the Korean People's Army (KPA) during a military drill at an undisclosed location in North Korea.
North Korea launches four ballistic missiles by the Korean People's Army (KPA) during a military drill at an undisclosed location in North Korea. Supplied

North Korea has fired another missile

NORTH Korea test-fired a ballistic missile early today from a region north of its capital, Pyongyang, Yonhap news agency reported.

"North Korea fired an unidentified missile from a site in the vicinity of Bukchang in Pyeongannam-do (South Pyeongan Province) early this morning," Yonhap reported, quoting a statement issued by South Korea's military.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed the ballistic test happened but there were no other immediate details, including what type of missile was used.

A US official also confirmed the missile launch.

North Korea routinely test-fires a variety of ballistic missiles, despite United Nations (UN) prohibitions, as part of its push to develop a long-range ballistic missile capable of hitting US shores.

While shorter-range missiles are somewhat routine, there is strong outside worry about each longer range North Korean ballistic test.

Saturday's launch comes at a point of particularly high tension. US President Donald Trump has taken a hard line with Pyongyang and sent a US aircraft supercarrier to Korean waters.

It also comes as the US told the UN to act before North Korea does and that failure to curb its nuclear program could have 'catastrophic consequences'.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged the 15-member body to act immediately and called on states to sever diplomatic and financial ties with Pyongyang.

He said that because China accounted for 90 per cent of North Korean trade, its role was particularly important.

"Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences," Mr Tillerson said in his first remarks to the council as secretary of state.

However, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said dialogue and negotiations are "the only right choice" to address North Korea's missile and nuclear programs.

Mr Tiollerson also told the UN that the "threat of a North Korea nucler attack on Seoul or Tokyo is real."

US President Donald Trump has said he would prefer a diplomatic solution, but acknowledged the stand-off is highly dangerous.

"There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely," he told Reuters. "We'd love to solve things diplomatically, but it's very difficult."

The US has called for stronger UN sanctions on North Korea, but it wants China to take the lead in diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis by using its leverage on Pyongyang.

"We are going to be discussing what steps may be necessary to increase pressure on Pyongyang to have them reconsider their current posture," Mr Tillerson said in an interview with Fox News.

Turning to China, Mr Tillerson said: "We are going to test their willingness to help us address the serious threat.

"We were told by the Chinese that they informed the regime that if they did conduct further nuclear tests China would be taking sanctions actions on their own."

Mr Tillerson said the United States is not ruling out direct dialogue with North Korea but that it would seek guarantees that Pyongyang is ready to abandon its nuclear and missile programs.

"Obviously, that would be the way we would like to solve this," he told National Public Radio, when asked whether Washington seeks talks with Pyongyang.

"But North Korea has to decide they're ready to talk to us about the right agenda - and the right agenda is not simply stopping where they are for a few more months or a few more years and then resuming things."

No resolutions will be adopted at the UN meeting, but it will allow the United States and its allies to put the onus on China to use its leverage to rein in Pyongyang.

North Korea is seeking to develop a long-range missile capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead, and has so far staged five atomic tests, two of them last year.

China, Pyongyang's number one trade partner, has repeatedly called for a return to talks on denuclearisation but has been reluctant to use economic pressure that could destabilise North Korea.

The Security Council has imposed six sets of sanctions on North Korea - two adopted last year - to significantly ramp up pressure and deny Kim Jong-un's regimen the hard currency revenue needed for his military programs.

But UN sanctions experts have repeatedly told the council that the measures have had little impact on Pyongyang because they have been poorly implemented.

News Corp Australia

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