North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has promised to use nuclear weapons to counter threats from the United States hours after test-firing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICMB), the latest escalation as the UN Security Council prepares to convene an emergency session on Pyongyang’s actions.
The United Nations Security Council, at the behest of Japan, South Korea and the US will gather on Monday to discuss North Korea’s latest missile launch.
North Korea test-fired what it said was a Hwasong-17 ICBM, which can travel up to 15,000 km (9,320 miles), on Friday shortly after warning of “fiercer military responses” to Washington.
“Kim Jong Un solemnly declared that if the enemies continue to pose threats … our party and government will resolutely react to nukes with nuclear weapons and to total confrontation with all-out confrontation,” Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Saturday.
KCNA said the Hwasong-17 launched on Friday was aimed at achieving “the most powerful and absolute nuclear deterrence” and described the missile as “the strongest strategic weapon in the world”.
North Korea has long defended its launch of ballistic missiles as a legitimate defence against what it calls a decades-old threat from US military forces and its allies in South Korea.
Kim was accompanied by his daughter, in her first public appearance, while he inspected a missile launch site on Friday. Trailed by military officials and personnel, Kim and his daughter walked hand-in-hand through the ICBM launch site where they paused to observe military hardware and multiple ICBMs.
Commenting on Friday’s launch, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said his country had “lodged a strong protest against North Korea, which has repeated its provocations with unprecedented frequency”.
“We have told (Pyongyang) that we absolutely cannot tolerate such actions,” Kishida said at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting in Thailand.
KCNA said the missile flew nearly 1,000 km (621 miles) for roughly 69 minutes, reaching a peak altitude of 6,041 km (3,754 miles).
Kim hailed the test launch a success, declaring it as confirmation of North Korea’s “maximum capacity to contain any nuclear threat” and a warning to US President Joe Biden’s administration and allies that any military provocation would trigger their “self-destruction”, KCNA reported.
“Our party and government should clearly demonstrate their strongest will to retaliate the hysteric aggression war drills by the enemies,” Kim stated, according to KCNA.
Friday’s ICBM launch and sabre-rattling statements come just days after Biden pressed Chinese President Xi Jinping in their first face-to-face meeting during the G20 talks in Bali to make it known to Kim that Washington would not stand for its “long-range nuclear tests”.
Biden promised a “defensive” response to “send a clear message to North Korea” if Xi could not rein in Pyongyang. Biden has not yet directly addressed North Korea’s Friday ICBM test.
“We are aware of the DPRK’s ballistic missile launch and are consulting closely with the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Japan, as well as other regional allies and partners,” the US Department of Defence said in a statement sent to Al Jazeera.
“The United States condemns these actions and calls on the DPRK to refrain from any further unlawful and destabilizing acts. While we have assessed that this event does not pose an immediate threat to US personnel, or territory, or to our allies, we will continue to monitor the situation. The US commitments to the defence of the ROK and Japan remain ironclad.”
North Korea’s official name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).