North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed on July 5 his nation will “demonstrate its mettle to the U.S.” and never put its weapons programs up for negotiations, a day after test-launching its first intercontinental ballistic missile. The hard line suggests more tests are being prepared as the country tries to perfect nuclear-armed missiles capable of striking anywhere in the United States.
Tuesday’s ICBM launch, confirmed by U.S. and South Korean officials, is a milestone in North Korea’s efforts to develop long-range missiles with nuclear warheads. It isn’t there yet — some analysts suggest it will take several more years and many more tests to perfect such an arsenal — but a successful launch of an ICBM has long been seen as a red line after which it would only be a matter of time if North Korea isn’t stopped.
Worry spread in Washington and at the United Nations, where the United States, Japan and South Korea requested an emergency U.N. Security Council session on Wednesday. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed that the missile was an ICBM and said the U.S. response would include “stronger measures to hold the DPRK accountable,” using the acronym for the nation’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The missile test, North Korea’s most successful yet, was a direct rebuke to U.S. President Donald Trump’s earlier declaration on Twitter that such a test “won’t happen!”
The launch came days after the first face-to-face meeting between Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in and ahead of a summit of the world’s richest economies.
On Wednesday, U.S. and South Korean troops, in response to the ICBM launch, engineered a show of force for North Korea, with soldiers from the allies firing “deep strike” precision missiles into South Korean territorial waters. Moon ordered the drills with the United States to show “North Korea our firm combined missile response posture,” his office said.
North Korea’s Academy of Defense Science, in a bit of hyperbole, said the test of the Hwasong-14 missile marked the “final step” in creating a “confident and powerful nuclear state that can strike anywhere on Earth.” (AP)