ICBM test proves North Korea’s ability to contain US threats, Kim says

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said testing of a newly developed ICBM confirmed his country had another “reliable weapon with maximum capacity” to contain outside threats, as he warned the United States and its allies that her alleged provocative steps in doing so would result in “her self-destruction,” state media reported on Saturday.

North Korea’s state media said Kim monitored the launch of the Hwasong-17 missile, a day after its neighbors said they had spotted the launch of an ICBM that showed a potential ability to land anywhere in the United States.

North Korea’s Central News Agency said Kim watched the launch with his wife Ri Sol Ju and their “beloved daughter” and senior officials. State media photos showed Kim walking hand-in-hand with his daughter in a white jacket and a pair of red shoes as they watched a giant rocket being loaded onto a launcher. It’s the first time North Korea has released Kim’s daughter’s photo. Observers say Kim, who watched a gun launch with his family, suggests he was confident in his 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. It was not immediately known which child he was taking to the launch pad.

Much of Kim’s personal life is still unknown, but in 2013, after a trip to Pyongyang, retired NBA star Dennis Rodman told British newspaper The Guardian that he and Kim spent a “relaxing time by the sea” with the leader’s family and that he lucky Kim’s little daughter named Ju Ae.

Friday’s launch was part of the North’s ongoing spate of missile tests, seen as an attempt to expand its arsenal of weapons and increase its influence over future diplomacy. Some foreign experts said the Hwasong-17 missile is still in development but is the North’s longest-range ballistic weapon, capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads to defeat US missile defense systems.

KCNA said the missile, launched from Pyongyang International Airport, flew to a maximum altitude of about 6,040 kilometers (3,750 miles) and traveled a distance of about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) before landing on the preset area in international waters before the Landed in the east of the country was the coast.

“The test fire clearly demonstrated the reliability of the new large strategic weapon system as representative of (North Korea’s) strategic armed forces and its strong combat performance as the world’s most powerful strategic weapon,” KCNA said.

Kim said his country was being forced to further strengthen its “overwhelming nuclear deterrent” because US-led military threats had become more transparent. Kim stressed the need for the US and its allies to recognize that their military moves against North Korea “would lead to their self-destruction,” KCNA said.

“Kim Jong Un solemnly declared that if the enemies continue to threaten the DPRK and frequently use nuclear weapons, our Party and government will react resolutely to nuclear weapons and to all-out confrontation with all-out confrontation,” KCNA said.

Kim’s statement suggests North Korea will continue its weapons testing activities as the United States urges to increase its security commitments to its allies South Korea and Japan.

North Korea’s weapons test tour this year was possible in part because China and Russia resisted efforts by the United States and its allies to pass new UN sanctions on North Korea. There are concerns North Korea could soon conduct its first nuclear test in five years.

US National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson condemned the launch on Friday, saying the United States would take “all necessary measures” to ensure the security of its territory, as well as that of South Korea and Japan. Vice President Kamala Harris met separately with the leaders of those countries, as well as Australia, Canada and New Zealand, who are attending a regional forum in Bangkok to discuss a joint response to North Korea.

South Korea and Japan also criticized the launch and conducted separate air exercises with US forces. South Korea’s military said it has also conducted unilateral drills simulating air strikes on mobile North Korean rocket launchers at a firing range near its land border with North Korea.

Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said Friday that depending on the weight of a potential warhead, the missile has a range of more than 15,000 kilometers (9,320 miles), “in which case it could cover the entire mainland United States.”

The North’s nuclear and missile arsenals are shrouded in secrecy. Some experts say North Korea is years away from having a working nuclear missile and say it has yet to test technologies to ensure warheads survive the harsh conditions of atmosphere reentry. However, others say that given the number of years it has devoted to its nuclear program, North Korea has likely already acquired such capacity.

In recent months, North Korea has conducted dozens of short-range missile tests, which it called simulations of nuclear attacks on South Korean and US targets. North Korea said its tests were aimed at warning the United States and South Korea about their military training, which the North regards as an invasion rehearsal.

North Korea halted weapons launches for about a week before launching a short-range ballistic missile on Thursday. Prior to that launch, North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui threatened “tougher” military responses to US moves to strengthen its security commitments to South Korea and Japan.

Choe was referring to US President Joe Biden’s recent meeting with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts on the sidelines of a regional gathering in Cambodia. In their joint statement, the three leaders strongly condemned North Korea’s recent missile tests and agreed to work together to strengthen deterrence. Biden reiterated US commitments to defend South Korea and Japan with a full suite of capabilities, including nuclear weapons.

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