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North Korea's latest nuclear test shows it has made 'rapid progress' in weapons, UN says

North Korea has made rapid progress on weapons development that pose a new global threat, the UN nuclear watchdog says.

The United Nations nuclear watchdog's chief says North Korea's sixth nuclear test conducted shows the isolated country has made rapid progress on weapons development that pose a new, global threat.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have increased markedly since the test, on September 3 which led to a new round of sanctions against the North after a unanimous UN Security Council resolution.

"(The) yield is much bigger than the previous test, and it means North Korea made very rapid progress," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director Yukiya Amano told reporters in Seoul on Friday.

"Combined with other elements, this is a new threat and this is a global threat," he said after a meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha.

Amano said the IAEA did not have the capacity to determine whether the North had tested a hydrogen bomb, as Pyongyang has claimed.

"What is most important for now is for the international community to unite," Amano said.

Tensions had already flared after North Korea tested two more intercontinental ballistic missiles and other launches as it pursues its nuclear and missile programmes in defiance of international pressure.

South Korea said on Thursday the North could engage in more provocations near the anniversary of the founding of the North Korean communist party and China's all-important Communist Party Congress.