North Korea’s Kim oversees ICBM test, vows more nuclear weapons

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to counter the US nuclear threat with nuclear weapons as the country test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), state media KCNA said on Saturday.

The isolated country test-fired a Hwasong-17 ICBM on Friday, a day after Washington warned of “severe military responses” to increased security measures in the region, including its nuclear assets.

Attending the site for the first time with his daughter, he said threats of aggressive policy by the United States and its allies had prompted his country to dramatically step up its massive nuclear deterrent.

“If the enemy continues to pose a threat, “Kim Jong-un solemnly declared that our party and government will resolutely respond with nuclear weapons and face all-out confrontation,” KCNA news agency reported.

The launch of the Hwasong-17 missile is part of North Korea’s top-priority defense build-up strategy. KCNA said it aims to establish the most powerful and absolute nuclear deterrent, calling it the most powerful strategic weapon in the world.

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The missile flew nearly 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) for 69 minutes and reached a maximum altitude of 6,041 kilometers, KCNA said. Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said the weapon could travel 15,000 kilometers (9,320 miles), enough to reach the Americas.

During a joint military exercise on Saturday, its F-35A fighter jets and US F-16 fighter jets protected US B-1B bombers. South Korea’s military said the US extended deterrence assets were designed to be deployed quickly.

North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said on Thursday that the United States The trilateral summit between South Korea and Japan was condemned, with the leaders criticizing Pyongyang’s ongoing weapons tests and promising more security cooperation.

Choe cited recent joint military exercises and efforts to strengthen the US’s expanded deterrence, including its nuclear forces, to deter attacks on the two key Asian allies.

Kim said military action against Pyongyang confirmed the test that they could “maintain another credible and highly advanced capability when needed to warn Washington and its allies that it could lead to self-destruction.”

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“Our party and government should clearly show their strongest will to retaliate against the enemies’ hysterical war,” he said.

“The more U.S. imperialists are militarily brazen, and the more they insist on a ‘strong deterrence offer’ to their allies and military exercises, the more likely North Korea’s military counterattack will be.”

Kim refers to his country by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The rapid development of strategic weapons and their assignment to ICBM and tactical nuclear weapons units has ordered “intensified training to ensure flawlessness in any situation and at any time,” KCNA said.

Unveiled at a military parade in October 2020 and first tested in March, the latest test of the Hwasong-17 demonstrated the weapon’s ability to deliver a nuclear warhead anywhere in the United States.

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Some researchers speculate that it will be designed to carry multiple warheads and decoys to better penetrate missile defenses.

On Monday, the United Nations Security Council will hold talks with North Korea at the request of the United States, with South Korea and Japan strongly condemning the latest launch.

China and Russia backed tougher sanctions after Pyongyang’s last nuclear test in 2017, but in May both sides vetoed UN sanctions over new missile launches, led by the US.

ICBMs are North Korea’s long-range weapon, and Friday’s launch was its eighth ICBM test this year, according to US State Department statistics.

South Korean and U.S. officials have reported multiple crashes of a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile, including a Nov. 3 missile launch that failed at altitude.

Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Jonathan Oatis Edited by Sandra Maler and Gerry Doyle.

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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