Shortly after the UN Security Council “strongly condemned” North Korea’s “highly provocative” ballistic missile launch over Japan on Friday, Kim Jong Un vowed he would complete his nation’s nuclear program despite escalating international sanctions. On Saturday, state-run news agency KCNA quoted the leader, who said that North Korea is nearing its goal of “equilibrium of real force” with the U.S. and claimed that North Korea’s nuclear program is nearly complete.
KCNA added that Friday’s latest missile test was aimed at “calming down the belligerence of the U.S.” and “confirming action procedures of actual war,” the state-run agency said in a statement. Kim personally guided the launch of the latest Hwasong-12 missile, it added.
Hwasong-12 missile lifting off from Pyongyang, on Aug. 29.
KCNA also said that 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, AP noted that the Korean version quoted Kim as declaring the missile as operationally ready. He vowed to complete his nuclear weapons program in the face of strengthening international sanctions, the agency said.
Photos published by North Korea’s state media showed the missile being fired from a truck-mounted launcher and a smiling Kim clapping and raising his fist while celebrating from an observation point.
It was the first time North Korea showed the missile being launched directly from a vehicle, which experts said indicated confidence about the mobility and reliability of the system.
In previous tests, North Korea used trucks to transport and erect the Hwasong-12s, but moved the missiles on separate firing tables before launching them.
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 U.N. sanctions that have lasted for decades,” the agency quoted Kim as saying.
Kim said the country’s final goal “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.
More importantly, he indicated that more missile tests would be forthcoming, saying that all future drills should be “meaningful and practical ones for increasing the combat power of the nuclear force” to establish an order in the deployment of nuclear warheads for “actual war.”
Prior to the launches over Japan, North Korea 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.”
Separately, on Satruday China rebuffed U.S. demands to cut off oil exports to North Korea as a way to dissuade Kim Jong-Un’s regime from pursuing nuclear weapons, saying instead it was American leaders who needed to “tone down their rhetoric and come to the negotiating table.” China will implement all United Nations Security Council resolutions, “no more, no less,” Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to the U.S., told reporters at a briefing in Washington when asked if China would cut oil shipments. Any further steps would need to be worked out with the agreement of the entire UN Security Council, he said.
On Thursday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson demanded that China use its role as the main exporter of oil to North Korea to force Kim to abandon his nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. Hours earlier, North Korea had launched a missile over Japan, the latest in a series of actions that have rattled the international community and prompted a new round of U.S.-led sanctions.
Cui said the U.S., not China, needed to take more responsibility for the issue. “They cannot just leave the issue to China alone, and honestly I think the United States should be doing more, much more than now, so that there is real effective international cooperation on this issue, Cui said.
Asked what specifically the U.S. should do, Cui said “they should refrain from issuing more threats” and “do more to find an effective way to resume dialogue and negotiation.”
For now, neither threats nor dialogue have made any progress at de-escalating the increasingly more hostile standoff.