North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for more weapons launches targeting the Pacific Ocean to advance his country’s ability to contain Guam, state media said Wednesday, a day after Pyongyang for the first time flew a ballistic missile designed to carry a nuclear payload over Japan.
The KCNA report said the missile was an intermediate-range Hwasong-12, which the North first successfully tested in May and threatened to fire into waters near Guam earlier this month.
Kim also said it’s “necessary to positively push forward the work for putting the strategic force on a modern basis by conducting more ballistic rocket launching drills with the Pacific as a target in the future.”
The launch seemed designed to show that North Korea can back up a threat to target Guam, if it chooses to do so, while also establishing a potentially dangerous precedent that could see future missiles flying over Japan.
The UN Security Council strongly condemned the launch, which came less than a month after the council imposed its toughest-yet sanctions on North Korea. The statement released after a meeting Tuesday evening in New York doesn’t mention any potential new sanctions but calls for strict implementation of existing ones.
Any new test worries Washington and its allies because it presumably puts North Korea a step closer to its goal of an arsenal of nuclear missiles that can reliably target the United States. Tuesday’s test, however, looks especially aggressive to Washington, Seoul and Tokyo.
Seoul says that while North Korea has twice before fired rockets it said were carrying satellites over Japan — in 1998 and 2009 — it has never before used a ballistic missile, which is unambiguously designed for military strikes.
The launch is also another rebuke to Trump, who suggested last week that his tough approach to North Korea, which included threats to unleash “fire and fury,” meant Kim “is starting to respect us.”
On Tuesday, the Japanese Air Self Defense Force demonstrated a Patriot Advanced Capability-3 surface-to-air missile system at the US Air Force base in Yokota, 26 miles from Tokyo.
The Patriot is meant to shoot down enemy aircraft and missiles. Japanese reporters watched Self Defense Forces set up the missile battery in a matter of minutes, a clear sign that Japanese authorities were prepared to shoot down any North Korean missiles that threaten them.
Lt. Gen. Hiroaki Maehara, head of Japan's Air Defense Command, said that the exercise's purpose was deterrence. "It is most important to keep up such efforts," he said. "[The JASDF] will continue [Patriot] deployment training across the country to develop the feelings of security and safety among Japanese citizens and to strengthen the alliance," he told reporters.
The South Korean Air Force demonstrated their might with a live-fire bombing drill by four F-15K multirole strike fighters dropping eight MK84 multi-purpose bombs. South Korea filmed the weapons drills and disseminated the footage publicly online.
To continue their flexing, South Korea also unveiled footage of new short-range ballistic missiles developed by South Korea's own missile defense initiative, the Agency for Defense Development (ADD)
Furthermore, South Korean officials told the Korean Times that they were in talks with the United States to deploy additional military assets to the Peninsula: bombers, stealth jets, destroyers equipped with Aegis missile defense systems and nuclear-powered submarines.
North Korea has announced that its latest test of Hwasong-12 missile, observed by the country’s leader Kim Jong-un, was a successful demonstration of Pyongyang’s determination to counter any potential threat stemming from the US' joint drills with South Korea.
“This ballistic rocket launch drill… is the first step in military operations on the Pacific Ocean conducted by our troops and will be a meaningful prelude to containing Guam Island,” the North's official KCNA news agency quoted Kim as saying.
Pyongyang claimed the intermediate-range missile landed in a designated area and never posed any threat to neighboring countries. It also praised the test as proof of its full “combat performance” and “strategic capability.”
The rocket flew an estimated 2,700 kilometers, which indicates that Pyongyang’s threat to fire missiles toward the US Pacific territory of Guam was not a bluff, warned Konstantin Kosachev, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Russian Federation Council.
Earlier, Pyongyang threatened to “contain Guam” by launching several missiles into waters some 30-40 kilometers off the island in order to demonstrate its technical capabilities to strike US bases there. The threat prompted US president Donald Trump to warn the North that it would face American “fire and fury” if its actions posed any danger to the United States.
China said the situation in the Korean peninsula was reaching a “tipping point,” where all relevant parties have no other choice but to seek deescalation.
“The facts have proven that pressure and sanctions cannot fundamentally solve the issue,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.
Moscow agrees it's “obvious that the sanctions pressure resource is exhausted,” with Sergey Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister saying the UN Security Council should come to an understanding that a military solution is also a road to nowhere and “categorically unacceptable.”
Beijing and Moscow believe the best way out of the crisis would be to implement its "double freeze" strategy, which would see North Korea suspend its missile launches in exchange for the suspension of the joint US-South Korea military drills.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a statement condemning North Korea for its “outrageous actions and threats against another UN Member State.” The US-drafted document urges Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, while expressing a “commitment to a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution.” The 15-member body, which convened for an emergency session Tuesday, did not introduce any new sanctions against the North, with China and Russia reiterating that such pressure tactics is futile in terms of drawing Pyongyang into constructive dialogue.