United States Secretary of Defence James Mattis says North Korea has fired its highest-ever intercontinental ballistic missile and poses a worldwide threat.

The missile, launched early today landed in Japanese waters.

It reached an altitude of 4 500 kilometres and flew 960 kilometres, according to South Korea’s military.

It was the latest in a series of weapons tests that has raised tensions. Pyongyang last launched a ballistic missile in September.

It also conducted its sixth nuclear test that month.

North Korea has continued to develop its nuclear and missile programme despite global condemnation and sanctions.

The United Nations Security Council is due to convene an emergency session to discuss the latest test.