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[WASHINGTON] Pentagon chief Ashton Carter on Thursday decried North Korea's latest missile test and again vowed an "overwhelming" response if Pyongyang were ever to launch a nuclear weapon.
North Korea on Thursday - Wednesday in the United States - conducted what appeared to be a failed test of a powerful medium-range missile that experts warn could be deployed as early as next year.
"We strongly condemn last night's attempt, which even in failing, violated several UN Security Council resolutions," Mr Carter said at a joint press conference with his South Korean counterpart, Han Min Koo.
Mr Carter went on to repeat a pledge he and Secretary of State John Kerry had made in Washington on Wednesday, ahead of the most recent missile test.
"Make no mistake: Any attack on America or our allies will not only be defeated, but any use of nuclear weapons will be met with an overwhelming and effective response."
It was the second failed launch in less than a week of the Musudan, which has a theoretical range of anywhere between 2,500 and 4,000 kilometres.
The lower estimate covers the whole of South Korea and Japan, while the upper range would include US military bases on Guam.
On Wednesday, Mr Kerry said the United States would deploy a missile-defense system to South Korea as soon as possible, despite opposition from China.
Washington sees the US-built Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system as protection against North Korea's pursuit of missile and nuclear technology.