North Korea unveils Earth photos captured by latest ballistic missile

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The Security Council strongly condemned North Korea's "flagrant and provocative defiance" of U.N. sanctions banning ballistic missile tests on Monday and again vowed to impose new sanctions in response to its latest launch.

SEOUL―North Korea on Monday declared its medium-range Pukguksong-2 missile ready for deployment after a weekend test, the latest step in its quest to defy United Nations sanctions and develop an intercontinental rocket capable of striking U.S. targets.

South Korea's military said the missile flew 500 km, reaching an altitude of 560 km, before landing off Japan's east coast and causing no damage.

There has been mounting speculation that Pyongyang will conduct a test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), suggested by a New Year's Day address in which the North Korean leader claimed that the country was in the "final stages" of developing such a weapon.

He told reporters on Monday that France hopes the council will move ahead on a strong resolution that demands better implementation of existing sanctions and tougher new sanctions against North Korea.

The nation says it's set to start mass-producing its new missile, which can reach Japan and major USA military bases, The Associated Press reported Monday.

North Korea has long claimed that its development of nuclear weapons is a deterrent against what it calls Washington's hostile policy toward it.

The office said South Korea and the U.S. were conducting close-up analysis of the launch.

"What we're doing in terms of our defense cooperation with South Korea is in no way comparable to the blatant disregard that North Korea has shown with respect to worldwide law and global concerns repeatedly about its nuclear weapons program", acting State Department Spokesman Mark Toner said in March.

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Pyongyang, undeterred by multiple United Nations Security Council sanctions resolutions over its nuclear weapons and missile programs, continues to defy the global community with atomic and rocket tests.

North Korea has in recent years touted its drone program, a relatively new addition to its arsenal.

The Pukguksong (Polaris)-2 is a land-based version of a submarine-launched missile.

Kim said the test showed the missile is ready for deployment and mass production, according to KCNA.

And Sunday's test comes just days after the US Navy said the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan would soon be off the Korean Peninsula, where the carrier USS Carl Vinson is now operating.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the latest test a "challenge to the world".

In 2014, they traded machine gun and rifle fire after South Korean activists released anti-Pyongyang propaganda balloons across the Demilitarised Zone that bisects the Korean peninsula, but no casualties were reported.

The official Korean Central News Agency confirmed Monday the missile was a Pukguksong-2, a medium-to-long range ballistic missile also launched in February.

Experts say solid fuel engines and mobile launchers make it more hard to detect signs of launch preparations.