SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said Monday that leader Kim Jong Un has pledged to develop more powerful means of attack, days after the country launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile in more than four years. .
The statement suggests North Korea could conduct additional launches or even test a nuclear device as soon as it pushes to upgrade its arsenal and increase pressure on the Biden administration as nuclear diplomacy remains at a standstill. Last Thursday, the North conducted its 12th round of weapons tests this year, launching the newly developed long-range Hwasong-17, which analysts said was designed to reach anywhere in the continental United States.
During a photo session with scientists and others involved in the Hwasong-17 test, Kim expressed his determination to strengthen the country’s attack capability to deal with threats, according to the official Korean News Agency. .
“It is only when one is equipped with the formidable strike capabilities, overwhelming military power that cannot be stopped by anyone, that one can prevent a war, guarantee the security of the country and contain and put under control all threats and blackmail from the imperialists,” KCNA quoted Kim as saying.
Kim said North Korea would develop “more powerful strike capabilities” and also expressed his belief and expectation that his country “will more vigorously perfect the country’s nuclear war deterrence,” KCNA said.
North Korea said the Hwasong-17 flew at a maximum altitude of 6,248 kilometers (3,880 miles) and covered 1,090 kilometers (680 miles) in a 67-minute flight before landing in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. Outside experts have said that if the missile is fired on a standard trajectory, flatter than the steep test angle, it could fly up to 15,000 kilometers (9,320 miles), enough to reach anywhere on the Americas and beyond.
In this photo distributed by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, walks around what he says is a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on the launcher, in an unmarked location. leaked in North Korea on March 24, 2022.
Korean Central News Agency/Korean News Service via AP
At an estimated length of around 25 meters (82 ft), the Hwasong-17 is the North’s longest-range weapon and, by some estimates, the largest road-mobile ballistic missile system in the world. Its size suggests the missile is meant to carry multiple nuclear warheads, given that the North already has single-warhead ICBMs that could hit most of the United States as well.
US-led diplomacy aimed at convincing North Korea to denuclearize in exchange for economic and political benefits has largely stalled since 2019. The Biden administration has urged North Korea to resume talks without any preconditions, but Pyongyang responded that Washington must first drop its hostility and took steps to expand its weapons arsenals.
Some experts say Kim could soon conduct another ICBM launch, a launch of a rocket carrying a satellite or a test of a nuclear device as he strives to perfect his weapons technology, increase the pressure on the United States and to obtain a stronger internal royalty.
On Monday, South Korea reiterated a previous assessment that there are signs North Korea is restoring previously demolished tunnels at its underground nuclear test site. Lee Jong-joo, spokesperson for Seoul’s Unification Ministry, said a nuclear test by North Korea would pose a “serious threat” to international security and that the North must immediately cease all related acts and resume talks.
Hwasong-17’s liftoff was the North’s most serious weapons launch since it tested a previously developed ICBM in November 2017. Its last nuclear test, its sixth overall, was in September 2017.
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