North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has praised a new ballistic missile test as “greatest success and victory” as the UN Security Council convened to discuss the launch.
Kim hailed the test as a sign that North Korea has “joined the front rank of the military powers fully equipped with nuclear attack capability,” the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Thursday.
He also urged North Korean scientists to step up efforts to mount nuclear warheads on all types of ballistic missiles so that they could be used “to cope with the unpredicted total war and nuclear war with the US imperialists.”
The missile was launched from a submarine near the North Korean coastal city of Sinpo early Wednesday. It reportedly flew some 500 km (311 miles) and entered Japan’s air identification zone before landing in the Sea of Japan.
That means all of South Korea, and possibly parts of Japan, are within the North Korean missile’s range.
The KCNA said the test was meant to evaluate the stability of the underwater launching system, the flight features of the solid-fuel missile, the reliability of the control and guidance system as well as the accuracy of the warhead in hitting targets after it reenters the atmosphere.
Hours after the launch, the foreign ministers of China, Japan and South Korea condemned the test during an annual trilateral meeting in Tokyo, urging Pyongyang to exercise “self-restraint” and avoid “provocative” actions.
The US slammed North Korea’s missile launch as a provocation and vowed to raise the issue at the United Nations.
North Korea's leader brushed aside reaction to its military tests.
“I do not guess what ridiculous remarks the US and its followers will make about this test-fire, but I can say their rash acts will only precipitate their self-destruction,” the KCNA quoted Kim as saying.
Officials in Seoul had earlier censured the launch as an “armed protest” against the commencement of annual South Korean-US military drills that Pyongyang calls an invasion rehearsal.
The comments came as the UN Security Council held a closed-door emergency meeting late on Wednesday at Washington’s request to discuss issuing a statement on the latest missile launch.
So far, no such statement has been released, but Malaysia’s UN Ambassador Ramlan Bin Ibrahim said after the meeting that there was a general sense of condemnation by most members of the council.
The UN and the West have imposed a raft of sanctions on North Korea, prompting Pyongyang to step up its nuclear activities.
In January, North Korea said it had successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb, its fourth nuclear test, and vowed to build up its nuclear program as deterrence against potential aggression from the US and its regional allies.
A month later, Pyongyang launched a long-range rocket which it said placed an earth observation satellite into orbit. Washington and Seoul denounced it as a cover for an intercontinental ballistic missile test.
North Korea says it will not give up on its nuclear “deterrence” unless Washington ends its hostile policy toward Pyongyang and dissolves the US-led command in South Korea. Thousands of US soldiers are stationed in South Korea and Japan.
The UN has adopted five rounds of crippling sanctions on the North since it first tested an atomic device in 2006 despite the nation's critical situation, including its worsening famine.