North Korea crisis: US and South Korea fire missiles

Beijing: US President Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in ordered a large live-fire missile exercise on Wednesday to send a warning to North Korea, responding to Kim Jong-un's regime reaching a milestone by firing its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

The ballistic and surface to surface missile exercise came hours after China and Russia had urged the US and South Korea to stop massive military exercises on the Korean Peninsula.

"The deep strike precision capability enables the (South Korean)-US alliance to engage the full array of time critical targets under all weather conditions," the US Army said in a statement, adding that the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) and the Republic of Korea's Hyunmoo Missile II were utilised.

The joint exercise was directly in response to "North Korea's destabilising and unlawful actions," US Pacific Command said. The missiles used could be deployed rapidly and provide "deep strike precision capability".

Mr Moon's office said North Korea's "serious provocation" required a reaction that was more than just words.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the North Korean test was an "escalation" and vowed the US would take "stronger measures", which would be taken to a closed door meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Picture: Chung Sung-Jun/ Getty Images

South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Picture: Chung Sung-Jun/ Getty Images

He said any country hosting North Korean workers, or giving economic or military aid to North Korea, was aiding and abetting a dangerous regime.

"The United States strongly condemns North Korea's launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile. ... All nations should publicly demonstrate to North Korea that there are consequences to their pursuit of nuclear weapons."

He said the US "will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea".

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier met in Moscow and said they would become a "ballast stone for world peace and stability" and would take a combined approach to North Korea. They called for a return to negotiations with North Korea, and for North Korea to freeze its nuclear and missile activity.

But the Chinese and Russian proposal also called for the United States to halt frequent military exercises with South Korea on the Korean Peninsula, arguing the current tensions could lead to catastrophic developments.

The united Sino-Russian stance came as relations between China and the US have deteriorated in the past week, and may flag difficulty in reaching UN Security Council consensus on how to respond to the North Korean ICBM test.

The US and South Korea have repeatedly called for China to put more pressure on North Korea, and the US has previously said it would impose unilateral sanctions if China was unwilling to act.

China has halted coal imports from North Korea, but the US is believed to want China to cut its oil pipeline to also cut its oil pipeline to North Korea.

Last week the US imposed sanctions on two Chinese companies it said was dealing with North Korea. The Union of Concerned Scientists' David Wright said it could take North Korea another year to develop a warhead for an ICBM but the regime appeared to be "well on the way".