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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts during a test launch of ground-to-ground medium long-range ballistic rocket Hwasong-10 in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 23, 2016. REUTERS/KCNA

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By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations Security Council on Thursday condemned North Korea's most recent ballistic missile launches as a grave violation of an international ban and called on the 193 U.N. member states to enforce toughened sanctions on the Asian state.

North Korea, or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, launched what appeared to be an intermediate-range missile on Wednesday to a high altitude in the direction of Japan before it plunged into the sea about two hours after a similar test failed.

"The members of the Security Council deplore all DPRK ballistic missile activities noting that such activities contribute to the DPRK's development of nuclear weapons delivery systems and increase tension," the 15-member body said.

"The members of the Security Council further regretted that the DPRK is diverting resources to the pursuit of ballistic missiles while DPRK citizens have great unmet needs," it said.

After supervising the missile launches, North Korea leader Kim Jong Un said his country now has the capability to attack U.S. interests in the Pacific, official media reported.

The U.N. Security Council met on Wednesday evening to discuss the missile launches. The statement issued on Thursday is almost identical to a condemnation by the council on June 1 over several previous ballistic missile tests by Pyongyang.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power signalled that the United States would seek "to identify individual, entities who may be responsible for this repeated series of tests" and could be sanctioned by the Security Council. 

North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions since 2006. In March, the Security Council imposed harsh new sanctions on the country in response to North Korea's fourth nuclear test in January and the launch of a long-range rocket in February.

Power said that since the new sanctions were imposed in March North Korea had carried out 10 ballistic missile tests.

"As DPRK continues to test these delivery systems they make progress and they learn things and thus it is extremely important that we come together and we address any hidden gaps there may be in the enforcement" of the March resolution, Power said on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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