In a report carried late on Monday by the North's official Korean Central News Agency, KCNA, Pyongyang said it had "launched missiles only after airspace, land and waters of the sea had been confirmed to be completely safe".

The launches "hurt neither ships nor civilian planes nor anyone". KCNA said: "This fact was admitted even by the neighbouring countries."

The test-firings this month led the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution sanctioning North Korea and banning UN member countries from missile-related dealings with it.

Tit-for-tat

On Friday, Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, labelled North Korea "a completely irresponsible state and dangerous" during a discussion with Asian journalists, according to the US state department.

North Korea retorted in its latest report that the Bush administration was made up of "the worst gangsters in the world" and accused the US of launching a "new global nuclear arms race".

It also noted that Washington officials had spoken of possibly trying to intercept the missiles amid reports of the impending launch.

"Had the [North] announced its plan for missile launches in advance as demanded by Rice, an extremely grave situation would have been created in the Asia-Pacific," KCNA said, noting that North Korea and the US remain technically at war.