North Korea vows to ful­fill nuke pro­gram

Tempo - - Editorial -

SEOUL, South Korea – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his coun­try is near­ing its goal of “equilib­rium” in mil­i­tary force with the United States, as the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil strongly con­demned the North’s “highly provoca­tive” bal­lis­tic mis­sile launch over Ja­pan on Fri­day.

The North’s of­fi­cial Korean Cen­tral News Agency car­ried Kim’s com­ments on Satur­day – a day af­ter U.S. and South Korean mil­i­taries de­tected the mis­sile launch from the North Korean cap­i­tal of Py­ongyang.

It trav­eled 3,700 kilo­me­ters (2,300 miles) as it passed over the Ja­panese island of Hokkaido be­fore land­ing in the north­ern Pa­cific Ocean. It was the coun­try’s long­est-ever test flight of a bal­lis­tic mis­sile.

The North has con­firmed the mis­sile as an in­ter­me­di­ate range Hwa­song-12, the same model launched over Ja­pan on Aug. 29.

Un­der Kim’s watch, North Korea has main­tained a tor­rid pace in weapons tests, in­clud­ing its most pow­er­ful nu­clear test to date on Sept. 3 and two July flight tests of in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles that could strike deep into the U.S. main­land when per­fected.

The in­creas­ingly fre­quent and ag­gres­sive tests have added to out­side fears that the North is closer than ever to build­ing a mil­i­tary ar­se­nal that could vi­ably tar­get the U.S. and its al­lies in Asia. The tests, which could po­ten­tially make launches over Ja­pan an ac­cepted norm, are also seen as North Korea’s at­tempt to win greater mil­i­tary free­dom in the re­gion and raise doubts in Seoul and Tokyo that Washington would risk the an­ni­hi­la­tion of a U.S. city to pro­tect them.

The KCNA said 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, 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.

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