SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the test of a newly developed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) confirmed that he had another “reliable and maximum-capacity” weapon to contain external threats, as he warned the United States and its allies that their alleged provocative steps would lead to “their self-destruction,” state media reported on Saturday.
According to North Korean state media, Kim oversaw the launch of the Hwasong-17 missile, a day after its neighbors said they had detected the launch of an ICBM that showed a potential ability to reach anywhere in continental America.
Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim observed the launch with his wife Ri Sol Ju and their “beloved daughter,” as well as senior officials. State media photos showed Kim walking hand-in-hand with his daughter, who was clad in a white jacket and red shoes, together watching a huge missile loaded onto a launch truck.
It’s the first time for North Korea to publish the photo of Kim’s daughter. Observers say Kim observing a weapons launch with his family suggests that he was confident in its success.
Kim, 38, is the third generation of his family to rule North Korea. South Korean media reported he has three children born in 2010, 2013 and 2017, respectively. It wasn’t immediately known which child he took to the launch site.
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Friday’s launch was part of the North’s ongoing barrage of missile tests that are seen as an attempt to expand its weapons arsenal and boost its leverage in future diplomacy. Some foreign experts said the Hwasong-17 missile is still under development, but is the North’s longest-range ballistic weapon designed to carry multiple nuclear warheads to defeat US missile defense systems.
KCNA said the missile fired from the Pyongyang International Airport traveled up to a maximum altitude of about 6,040 kilometers (3,750 miles) and flew a distance of about 1,000 km (620 mi) before it landed on the preset area in international waters off the country’s east coast.
“The test-fire clearly proved the reliability of the new major strategic weapon system to be representative of (North Korea’s) strategic forces and its powerful combat performance as the strongest strategic weapon in the world,” it added.
Kim said his country was compelled to further bolster its “overwhelming nuclear deterrence” in the face of intensifying US military threats. He stressed the need to have Washington and its allies realize that their military steps against North Korea would “lead to their self-destruction,” KCNA said.
“Kim Jong Un solemnly declared that if the enemies continue to pose threats to the DPRK, frequently introducing nuclear strike means, our party and government will resolutely react to nukes with nuclear weapons and to total confrontation with all-out confrontation,” KCNA said, using the North’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Kim’s statement suggests that North Korea would continue its weapons testing activities as the US is pushing to bolster its security commitment to its allies South Korea and Japan. There are concerns that the North could soon conduct its first nuclear test in five years.
The United Nations Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting for Monday morning on North Korea’s latest ballistic missile launch at Japan’s request. But it’s unclear if it can slap fresh sanctions on North Korea because China and Russia, two of the council’s veto-wielding members, opposed the US and its allies’ moves to toughen sanctions on the North over its banned tests of ballistic missiles earlier this year.
US National Security Council spokesman Adrienne Watson condemned Friday’s launch and said Washington would take “all necessary measures” to guarantee the safety of its territory and South Korea and Japan. Vice President Kamala Harris separately met with the leaders of those countries and of Australia, Canada and New Zealand who are attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Thailand’s capital Bangkok to discuss a joint response to North Korea.