By Hyonhee Shin
SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to counter U.S. threats with nuclear weapons as he visited the country’s new intercontinental ballistic missile test, state news agency KCNA said on Saturday.
The remote country test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Friday, just a day after Washington warned of a “dangerous military response” to boost regional security including nuclear weapons.
Attending the site with his daughter for the first time, Kim said threats from the United States and its allies pursuing hostile policies had prompted his country to “accelerate the strengthening of its comprehensive ban on nuclear weapons.”
“Kim Jong Un stressed that if the enemy continues to threaten … our party and government will take decisive action against nuclear weapons and all-out confrontation,” the KCNA news agency said.
The launch of the Hwasong-17 ICBM was part of the North’s “most important weapon in defense construction” aimed at building “the most powerful and comprehensive nuclear defense system,” KCNA said, calling it “the most powerful weapon in the world.”
The spacecraft flew about 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) for about 69 minutes and reached an altitude of 6,041 kilometers, KCNA said. Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said the missile could travel 15,000 kilometers (9,320 miles), enough to reach the United States.
On Thursday, North Korea’s foreign minister, Choe Son Hui, criticized Sunday’s trilateral meeting of the United States, South Korea and Japan, where the leaders condemned Pyongyang’s weapons tests and pledged greater security cooperation.
Choe cited the recent list of their military equipment and efforts to strengthen American security, including its nuclear weapons to deter attacks by the two Asian allies.
Kim said the test proved “some reliable and sufficient capability to contain any nuclear threats” at a time when he should have warned Washington and its allies that a war against Pyongyang could lead to “self-destruction”.
“Our party and the government should make sure that they want to take revenge for what the enemies did to them,” he said.
“And they need to think about a smart decision to improve their security.”