North Korea said Friday it conducted a launch drill for a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile the previous day to give "a stronger warning to the enemies" amid a large-scale military exercise being conducted by the United States and South Korea.
The launch drill, guided by leader Kim Jong Un, confirmed the war readiness of an ICBM unit and "the exceptional militancy" of the North's strategic forces and verified their reliability, the official Korean Central News Agency said.
The ICBM test took place just hours before the Japanese and South Korean leaders held a summit in Tokyo to discuss issues, including cooperation in responding to Pyongyang's threats.
In response to the missile firing and to ensure their readiness to respond to emergencies, Japan's Air Self-Defense Force and U.S. Air Force conducted a joint fighter jet drill over the Sea of Japan on Friday, Japan's Defense Ministry said.
North Korea conducted multiple launches last year of the Hwasong-17 ICBM, which can potentially travel over 15,000 kilometers and reach the U.S. mainland, but it is the first time Pyongyang has said the missile was used for a drill.
Kim expressed "great satisfaction" over the drill and stressed the need to "strike fear into the enemies" and "really deter war," KCNA said.
The leader also reiterated that North Korea would "react to nuclear weapons with nukes and frontal confrontation in kind" and called for strictly maintaining the rapid response posture of the strategic forces to cope with any armed conflict and war, it added.
Photos released by the media showed the leader was accompanied by his daughter during the on-the-spot guidance.
Kim accused the United States and South Korea of showing "open hostility" by frequently staging large-scale military drills on and around the Korean Peninsula, according to the news agency.
Seoul and Washington began the 11-day Freedom Shield exercise on Monday, the first large-scale springtime military drill in five years. North Korea has denounced such exercises as a rehearsal for invasion.
The Hwasong-17, launched Thursday from Pyongyang International Airport, traveled up to a maximum altitude of 6,045 km and flew a distance of 1,000.2 km for 1 hour, 9 minutes and 11 seconds before accurately landing on a preset area in open waters, KCNA said.
The launch drill "had no negative impact on the security of neighboring countries," the agency added.
Japan's Defense Ministry said Thursday the missile was believed to have fallen outside the country's exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan after flying for 70 minutes, with no reports of damage to aircraft or vessels.
The missile was fired on a steep vertical path or "lofted" trajectory, according to the South Korean military.