By Associated Press
North Korea said Saturday leader Kim Jong Un vowed to complete his nuclear weapons program in the face of strengthening sanctions after he inspected a powerful new intermediate-range missile that was fired over Japan.
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency carried Kim’s comments a day after U.S. and South Korean militaries detected the missile launch from the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.
It traveled 3,700 kilometers (2,300 miles) before landing into the northern Pacific Ocean. It was the country’s longest-ever test flight of a ballistic missile.
The North has confirmed the missile as an intermediate range Hwasong-12, which it also launched over Japan on Aug. 29.
The KCNA said Kim expressed great satisfaction over the launch, which he said verified the “combat efficiency and reliability” of the missile and the success of efforts to increase its power. While the English version of the report was less straightforward, the Korean version quoted Kim as declaring the missile as operationally ready.
Kim also said the country, despite “limitless” international sanctions, has nearly completed the building of its nuclear weapons force and called for “all-state efforts” to reach the goal and obtain a “capacity for nuclear counterattack the U.S. cannot cope with.”
“As recognized by the whole world, we have made all these achievements despite the UN sanctions that have lasted for decades,” the agency quoted Kim as saying.
Kim said the country’s final goal is to “is to establish the equilibrium of real force with the U.S. and make the U.S. rulers dare not talk about military option for the DPRK,” referring to North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Prior to the launches over Japan, North Korean had threatened to fire a salvo of Hwasong-12s toward Guam, the U.S. Pacific island territory and military hub the North has called an “advanced base of invasion.”
Friday’s launch followed North Korea’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3 in what it described as a detonation of a thermonuclear weapon built for its developmental intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The North flight tested its Hwasong-14 ICBMs twice in July and analysts say the missiles could potentially reach deep into the U.S. mainland when perfected.