North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has said a recent missile test has put his country among the strongest military powers. The UN is mulling a statement condemning the submarine-based launch.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un said on Thursday that the test of a ballistic missile launched from a submarine this week was the "greatest success" and put his country on a military par with the strongest nations.
According to state media, Kim "noted with pride that the results of the test-fire proved that the DPRK joined the front rank of military powers fully equipped with nuclear attack capability."
The official Korean Central News Agency (KNCA) also quoted Kim as saying that the "United States, as well as American military bases in the Pacific, are now within the striking range" of missiles launched by Pyongyang.
The KNCA said Kim had watched Wednesday's test, with Pyongyang's top newspaper, "Rodong Sinmun," carrying 24 photos of the leader observing the launch at an observation post. The paper said he had "appreciated the test-fire as the greatest success and victory."
South Korean officials said the rocket fired from a North Korean submarine off the country's east coast flew some 500 kilometers (310 miles) before landing in the Sea of Japan. This makes it the longest-ranging missile of the sort ever launched by the North.
If North Korea does develop reliable submarine-launched missiles, which are harder to detect before launch than land-based ones, it would be an advance in military power that would greatly concern the US and its allies in view of Pyongyang's often-stated belligerence. Development of such systems would enable Pyongyang to deploy missiles far beyond the Korean peninsula and give it "second-strike" capacity in the event of an attack on its military bases.
In his comments on Thursday, Kim called on his nation's scientists to advance the ability to launch missiles with nuclear warheads "to cope with the unpredicted total war and nuclear war with the US imperialists."
The test on Wednesday caused consternation among North Korea's neighbors, with China, South Korea and Japan all calling on Pyongyang to practice restraint and not to contravene UN resolutions forbidding the communist country to test missiles.
The UN Security Council met for two hours on Wednesday to discuss the launch, agreeing to consider issuing a statement condemning the test. However, diplomats say the wording of such a statement will require more negotiation with China, Pyongyang's main ally.
China ended up obstructing the issuing of a UN condemnation of Pyongyang's test last month of a land-launched missile that landed in Japanese-controlled waters, with Beijing calling for language opposing the THAAD missile defense system that the United States plans to deploy in South Korea.
Wednesday's launch came two days after the US and South Korea began 12 days of annual joint military exercises, prompting North Korea to threaten retaliation. Pyongyang considers the regular military drills as a rehearsal for invasion, and often responds with weapons tests and outbursts of bellicose rhetoric.
UN resolutions currently prohibit North Korea from using any ballistic missile technology, but this has not prevented the country from carrying out several launches following its fourth nuclear test in January.
tj/ (AFP, AP, dpa)