Saturday's activity is the biggest exhibition of the country's ballistic weaponry since it launched the long-range Taepodong-2 missile and six smaller ones in 2006. That launch date was also July 4.

In 2005, North Korea had agreed to give up its nuclear programme in exchange for a US pledge not to attack or invade the country and to work towards normalising relations.

But last April, the North walked out of six-party talks and resumed work on its nuclear facilities, prompting sanctions to be reimposed.

Chinese co-operation

Earlier this week, a US delegation met Chinese officials to discuss implementing the UN sanctions imposed on North Korea following its nuclear test in May.

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Philip Goldberg, the head of the delegation, described the Beijing talks as "very good discussions" towards reaching the full implementation of the UN resolutions on North Korea.

"We intend to implement these resolutions with the overall goal of returning to a path of denuclearisation and non-proliferation on the Korean peninsula," he said.

China, which supported the resolution despite being an ally of North Korea, has been criticised by the US in the past for lacking enthusiasm for implementing sanctions.

China is also North Korea's biggest benefactor and trade partner whose help would be essential for sanctions to be fully effective, analysts have said.

Russia joined China to call for calm on Saturday after the missile test.

Russia's foreign ministry said that Russia and China had agreed that all sides should refrain from any steps that could further destabilise the region.

Both countries called for a return to six-party talks, the ministry said.

Nothing to lose

Daniel Pinkston, from the International Crisis Group in Seoul, an organisation involved in conflict resolution, said the tests reveal that North Korea has little to lose while expressing its rejection of UN resolutions.

"At this point, countries will have a stronger political will to implement the sanctions and sustain them," he said.

"China is already taking a tougher line. They have been willing to impose sanctions regarding military hardware and arms exports."

Pinkston said China would not consider altering trade ties, and food and humanitarian assistance for North Korea but, despite this, the North Korea would be forced to talk to the world powers, particularly the US.

"For this reason alone, without the co-operation of the other side, neither side can be completely secure," Pinkston said.

"The paradox is that with stronger sanctions, the tighter North Korea is squeezed, they have a stronger incentive to earn foreign exchange through hard currency through elicit means, so it is risky for buyers as well as it being a shrinking market for them."