N. Korean says goals in reach

Kim touts mis­sile test, claims weapons nearly match to U.S.

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - In­for­ma­tion for this story was con­trib­uted by Kim Tong-Hyung and Edith M. Led­erer of The As­so­ci­ated Press; by Anna Fi­field of The Wash­ing­ton Post; and by Nick Wad­hams of Bloomberg News.

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his coun­try is near­ing its goal of reach­ing an “equi­lib­rium” in mil­i­tary force with the United States, state media re­ported Satur­day.

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

It trav­eled 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.

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

The Korean Central News Agency 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.

The re­port 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 news agency said.

Photos pub­lished by state media showed the mis­sile be­ing fired from a truck-mounted launcher and Kim smil­ing, 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 it moved the mis­siles on sep­a­rate fir­ing ta­bles be­fore launch­ing them.

Kim stressed the need for the abil­ity to launch a “nu­clear coun­ter­at­tack the U.S. can­not cope with,” ac­cord­ing to the Korean Central News Agency. This state­ment echoed pre­vi­ous as­ser­tions that North Korea is not seek­ing to at­tack first, but rather is aim­ing to de­velop the abil­ity to strike back.

Kim said his coun­try has nearly com­pleted the build­ing of its nu­clear weapons force. He also noted that North Korea had been able to make rapid progress on its nu­clear and mis­sile pro­grams de­spite more than a decade of in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions aimed at cutting off its abil­ity to pro­duce the parts and fund­ing it needed.

“We should clearly show the big power chau­vin­ists how our state at­tain[s] the goal of com­plet­ing its nu­clear force de­spite their lim­it­less sanc­tions and block­ade,” Kim told mem­bers of his elite mis­sile unit. North Korea has his­tor­i­cally used the term “big power chau­vin­ist” to re­fer to China.

“As rec­og­nized by the whole world, we have made all th­ese achieve­ments de­spite the U.N. sanc­tions that have lasted for decades,” the news 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.

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.”

Be­fore 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 that the North has called an “ad­vanced base of in­va­sion.”

The U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil ac­cused North Korea of un­der­min­ing re­gional peace and se­cu­rity by launch­ing the lat­est mis­sile over Ja­pan, adding that the coun­try’s nu­clear and mis­sile tests “have caused grave se­cu­rity con­cerns around the world” and threaten all 193 U.N. mem­ber states.

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

In its Sept. 3 nu­clear test, North Korea said it had det­o­nated a ther­monu­clear weapon built for its ICBMs.

In tests of its bal­lis­tic mis­siles, the Hwa­song-12 and the Hwa­song-14 were ini­tially fired at highly lofted an­gles to re­duce their range and avoid neigh­bor­ing coun­tries. The two Hwa­song-12 launches over Ja­pan in­di­cate North Korea is mov­ing to­ward eval­u­at­ing whether its war­heads can sur­vive the harsh con­di­tions of at­mo­spheric re-en­try and det­o­nate prop­erly.

While some ex­perts be­lieve North Korea would need to con­duct more tests to con­firm the Hwa­song-12’s ac­cu­racy and re­li­a­bil­ity, Kim’s lat­est com­ments in­di­cate the coun­try will soon move to­ward mass-pro­duc­ing the mis­siles for op­er­a­tional de­ploy­ment, said Kim Dong-yub, an an­a­lyst at Seoul’s In­sti­tute for Far Eastern Stud­ies. He also said that the North is likely plan­ning sim­i­lar test launches of its Hwa­song-14 mis­sile.

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 are also seen as North Korea’s at­tempt to win greater mil­i­tary free­dom in the re­gion and raise doubts in South Korea and Ja­pan over whether the U.S. would risk the an­ni­hi­la­tion of a U.S. city to pro­tect them.


The lat­est launch drew con­dem­na­tion from around the world, with the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil stress­ing in a state­ment after an emer­gency meet­ing Fri­day that all coun­tries must “fully, com­pre­hen­sively and im­me­di­ately” im­ple­ment all U.N. sanc­tions.

On Mon­day, the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil im­posed its tough­est sanc­tions to date against North Korea, set­ting lim­its on its oil im­ports and ban­ning its tex­tile ex­ports. But the new sanc­tions were a com­pro­mise. To win the sup­port of China and Rus­sia, the United States had to tone down its de­mands, which in­cluded a to­tal oil em­bargo and a global travel ban on Kim.

Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son on Thursday re­newed those de­mands, urg­ing China to use its role as the main ex­porter of oil to North Korea to force Kim to aban­don his nu­clear weapons and bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­grams.

China on Fri­day re­buffed the U.S. de­mands, say­ing in­stead that it was Amer­i­can lead­ers who needed to tone down their rhetoric and head to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble.

China will im­ple­ment all 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 whether China would cut oil ship­ments. Any fur­ther steps would need to be worked out with the agree­ment of the en­tire Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, he said.

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.

He said the U.S. should “find an ef­fec­tive way to re­sume di­a­logue and ne­go­ti­a­tion.”

But South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in, a lib­eral who ini­tially pushed for talks with North Korea, said last week that the North’s per­sis­tent tests cur­rently make di­a­logue “im­pos­si­ble.”

“If North Korea pro­vokes us or our al­lies, we have the strength to smash the at­tempt at an early stage and in­flict a level of dam­age it would be im­pos­si­ble to re­cover from,” said Moon, who or­dered his mil­i­tary to con­duct a live-fire bal­lis­tic mis­sile drill in re­sponse to the North Korean launch.


North Kore­ans watch the launch of a Hwa­song-12 bal­lis­tic rocket as it’s shown on a tele­vi­sion screen Satur­day at a train sta­tion in Py­ongyang.

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