SEOUL: North Korea leader Kim Jong-Un has promised more missile flights over Japan, insisting his nuclear-armed nation’s provocative launch was a mere “curtain-raiser”, in the face of UN condemnation and US warnings of severe repercussions.
The Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missile that Pyongyang unleashed on Tuesday represented a major escalation of tensions over its weapons programs.
In recent weeks it has threatened to send a salvo of missiles towards the US territory of Guam, while President Donald Trump has warned of raining “fire and fury” on the North.
After the latest launch Trump said that “all options” were on the table, reviving his implied threat of pre-emptive US military action just days after congratulating himself that Kim appeared to be “starting to respect us.”
The UN Security Council—which has already imposed seven sets of sanctions on Pyongyang—said in a unanimous statement the North’s “outrageous” actions “are not just a threat to the region, but to all UN member states”.
Both the North’s key ally China and Russia, which also has ties to it, backed the US-drafted declaration, but it will not immediately lead to new or tightened sanctions.
The Rodong Sinmun newspaper, mouthpiece of the North’s ruling party, on Wednesday carried more than 20 pictures of the launch near Pyongyang. One showed Kim smiling broadly at a desk with a map of the Northwest Pacific, surrounded by aides.
Another showed him gazing upwards as the missile rose into the air.
South Korea’s military said Tuesday that it had traveled around 2,700 kilometers (1,700 miles) and reached a maximum altitude of 550 kilometers.
The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) cited Kim as saying that “more ballistic rocket launching drills with the Pacific as a target in the future” were necessary.
Tuesday’s launch was a “meaningful prelude to containing Guam, advanced base of invasion”, he said, and a “curtain-raiser” for the North’s “resolute countermeasures” against ongoing US-South Korean military exercises which the North regards as a rehearsal for invasion.
Wednesday’s statement was the first time the North has acknowledged sending a missile over Japan’s main islands. Two of its rockets previously did so, in 1998 and 2009, but on both occasions it claimed they were space launch vehicles.
Independent analysts posted images online suggesting that Kim’s map showed an intended flight path of 3,200 kilometers, implying that the missile may have fallen 500 kilometers short. A South Korean defense official told Agence France-Presse they were still analyzing the North’s images.