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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance during a fire drill of ballistic rockets by Hwasong artillery units of the KPA Strategic Force, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 6, 2016. KCNA/via Reuters

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By Rodrigo Campos

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council strongly on Tuesday condemned North Korea's latest ballistic missile launches, saying they contributed to Pyongyang's development of nuclear weapons capability.

North Korea fired three ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast on Monday, the South Korean and U.S. militaries said, as the leaders of the Group of 20 major economies held a summit in China, the North's main diplomatic ally.

The missiles likely landed in the sea 200 to 250 km (120 to 160 miles) west of Hokkaido, Japan's northern-most main island.

"The members of the Security Council deplore all Democratic People’s Republic of Korea ballistic missile activities, including these launches," the U.N. body said in a statement, using North Korea's official name.

"Such activities contribute to (North Korea's) development of nuclear weapons delivery systems and increase tension."

Earlier, the United States called for action to enforce Security Council resolutions on North Korea prohibiting ballistic missile-related activities.

"The Security Council must remain unequivocal and united in the condemnation of these tests and we must take action to enforce the words we put on paper, to enforce our resolutions," said U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, after a Security Council meeting.

Power, who spoke along with her Japanese and South Korean counterparts, refrained from elaborating on what further action the Security Council could take.

Hahn Choong Hee, South Korea's deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, said Pyongyang was spending "a considerable amount" of its resources in developing weapons of mass destruction while sacrificing the living conditions of North Koreans.

Monday's missile launches were the latest in a series by North Korea this year in violation of Security Council resolutions that were supported by China banning ballistic missile-related activities by Pyongyang.

North Korea rejects the ban as infringing its sovereign right to pursue a space programme and self defence.

Asked whether China agreed more significant measures needed to be taken, permanent British representative to the United Nations, Matthew Rycroft, said: "We're talking to all of our council colleagues."

North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions since 2006. The 15-member Security Council toughened the sanctions in March in response to North Korea's fourth nuclear test in January and the launch of a long-range rocket in February.

The statement from the Security Council said members would closely monitor the situation and "take further significant measures in line with the Council's previously expressed determination" without elaborating further.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Alistair Bell)

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