North Korea has again defied the global community with the launch of a ballistic missile which flew over Japan and travelled the furthest Pyongyang has ever fired a projectile, in what has been interpreted as a message that the regime "has Guam in mind".
The launch of the intermediate-range missile yesterday will also be seen as a direct challenge to Donald Trump, who warned the North last month that it would face "fire and fury" if it threatened the US.
The missile, launched from Sunan, the site of Pyongyang's international airport, flew about 2,300 miles (3,700km) - the greatest distance travelled by a North Korean missile.
The distance is slightly greater than between the North Korean capital and the US territory of Guam, which has come under threat from Pyongyang in recent weeks, prompting Japan's Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera to say that he believed North Korea "has Guam in mind".
Garren Mulloy, a defence expert and associate professor of international relations at Japan's Daito Bunka University, told 'The Daily Telegraph': "From previous launches and the altitude and ranges of those missiles, it has been assumed that Guam is within range of the North's missiles, but this latest test is proof."
Sirens sounded in Japan as residents were warned to take shelter while the missile passed over Hoakkaido.
"We can never tolerate that North Korea trampled on the international community's strong, united resolve toward peace that has been shown in UN resolutions and went ahead again with this outrageous act," said Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister.
Jim Mattis, US defence secretary, called the latest missile launch a reckless act which had "put millions of Japanese in duck and cover".
Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, said North Korea was "endangering the entire world" and urged China and Russia to do more to rein in North Korea.
"China and Russia must indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own," he said.
China said it "opposed" the test, but reiterated its call for all sides in the crisis to exercise restraint. "The situation on the Korean Peninsula is complicated and sensitive," a spokeswoman said.
Vladimir Putin and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron agreed in a phone call yesterday that resuming talks with North Korea was the only way to resolve tensions, the Kremlin said.
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Russian president, told reporters Moscow "resolutely condemns" such moves and said the missile test will "lead to the further growth of tensions and the further escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula".
Russia backed the resolutions passed by the UN Security Council, but the Kremlin has also been critical of calls from the US to ramp up the sanction pressure on North Korea.
Amid further calls for firmer action against North Korea, an official from Pyongyang said economic measures would have no impact.
Choe Kang-il, deputy director general for North American affairs at the North's foreign ministry, said: "You can impose whatever sanctions you want, but no matter how long these sanctions last - whether it is for a hundred or a thousand years - we will ... continue with our planned tests."
A Gallup poll has found a majority of Americans support military action if economic and diplomatic efforts fail.
The survey of 1,022 US adults found 58pc said they would favour military action against North Korea if the United States cannot accomplish its goals by more peaceful means first.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a liberal who initially pushed for talks with North Korea, said Pyongyang's tests currently make dialogue "impossible".
"The sanctions and pressure by the international community will only tighten so that North Korea has no choice but to take the path for genuine dialogue.
"If North Korea provokes us or our allies, we have the strength to smash the attempt at an early stage and inflict a level of damage it would be impossible to recover from."
Mr Moon also spoke on the phone with the Japanese prime minister about their response. Presidential spokesman Park Su-hyun said the two leaders agreed to co-operate in identifying "stern and effective measures" to be discussed at next week's UN General Assembly ministerial meetings. (© Daily Telegraph)