Kim Jong Un vows to build an 'overwhelming military power'

Kim Jong Un vows to build an ‘overwhelming military power’ that can challenge ‘imperialists’, days after overseeing North Korea’s biggest missile launch

  • Kim Jong Un said when North Korea is equipped with ‘formidable striking capabilities’ the country can ‘put under control’ threats made by ‘imperialists’
  • Comes after Pyongyang successfully launched intercontinental ballistic missile
  • It was the first time North Korea has fired a ICBM at full range since 2017

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to build up ‘overwhelming’ and unstoppable military power that can challenge ‘imperialists’, days after he presided over the nation’s biggest missile launch. 

The leader said that when North Korea is equipped with ‘formidable striking capabilities’, the country can guarantee its security and ‘put under control’ threats made by Western powers. 

Kim’s comments follow Pyongyang successfully carrying out the launch of a intercontinental ballistic missile in defiance of crippling international sanctions on Thursday, the first time the North has fired such a weapon at full range since 2017. 

Known as the Hwasong-17, the powerful ICBM was first unveiled in October 2020 and dubbed a ‘monster missile’ by analysts.

‘Only when one is equipped with the formidable striking capabilities, overwhelming military power that cannot be stopped by anyone, one can prevent a war, guarantee the security of the country and contain and put under control all threats and blackmails by the imperialists,’ Kim told workers involved in the launch, KCNA reported.

‘We will continue to attain the goal of reinforcing national defense capabilities.’   

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to build up ‘overwhelming’ and unstoppable military power that can challenge ‘imperialists’, days after he presided over the nation’s biggest missile launch

General view during the test firing of a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in this undated photo released on March 24

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (centre) walking near what state media report says a new type inter-continental ballistic missile

Believed to be about 82 feet long, the Hwasong-17 is the North’s longest-range weapon and, by some estimates, the world’s biggest road-mobile ballistic missile system. Pictured Thursday

North Korea on Thursday launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017, one capable of hitting any part of the continental United States, while its Western rival has been focused on rising tensions with Russia amid the war in Ukraine

The missile launched Thursday – one of nearly a dozen North Korean weapons tested this year – appeared to have travelled higher and further than any previous ICBM tested by the nuclear-armed country, including one designed to strike anywhere on the US mainland.

The Hwasong-17, which was fired at a high angle to avoid the territorial waters of neighbors, reached a maximum altitude of 3,880 miles and traveled 680 miles during a 71-minute flight before landing in waters between North Korea and Japan, Pyongyang´s official Korean Central News Agency said.

The agency said the test met desired technical objectives and proved the ICBM could be operated quickly during wartime conditions.

Analysts say the successful launch may have emboldened Kim’s confidence that his country is on the right track to achieving nuclear deterrence and that more such tests should be expected. 

The South Korean and Japanese militaries had announced similar flight details, which analysts say suggested that the missile could reach targets 9,320 miles away when fired on normal trajectory with a warhead weighing less than a ton. 

That would place the entire U.S. mainland within striking distance.

Believed to be about 82 feet long, the Hwasong-17 is the North’s longest-range weapon and, by some estimates, the world’s biggest road-mobile ballistic missile system. 

The launch comes as government sources in South Korea claimed North Korea is preparing for its first nuclear bomb test in nearly five years.

Kim Jong Un’s secretive regime appears to be hastily constructing a ‘shortcut’ to a tunnel at its nuclear test site in Punggye-ri in preparations for a seventh underground nuclear detonation, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported on Sunday.  

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un looks through a window during the test firing of what state media report is a ‘new type’ of intercontinental ballistic missile, fired on Thursday

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watched the launch of the missile from an observation deck

The launch of the missile is seen during from drone footage from Thursday’s launch

North Korea revealed the Hwasong-17 missile in a military parade in October 2020 and Thursday’s launch was its first full-range test.

Analysts noticed it appeared ‘considerably larger’ than North Korea’s last new ICBM, the Hwasong-15, which was test fired in November 2017. 

It was displayed a second time at a defense exhibition in Pyongyang in October 2021. 

KCNA called the successful test a ‘striking demonstration of great military muscle,’ while Kim said it was a ‘miraculous’ and ‘priceless’ victory by the Korean people.    

Photos were published of the missile leaving a trail of orange flames as it soared from a launcher truck on the airport’s runway and Kim smiling and clapping as he celebrated with military officials from an observation deck.  

The agency quoted Kim as saying that his new weapon would make the ‘whole world clearly aware’ of the North’s bolstering nuclear forces. 

He vowed for his military to acquire ‘formidable military and technical capabilities unperturbed by any military threat and blackmail and keep themselves fully ready for long-standing confrontation with the U.S. imperialists.’

The Hwasong-17, which was fired at a high angle to avoid the territorial waters of neighbors, reached a maximum altitude of 3,880 miles and traveled 680 miles during a 71-minute flight

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walks away from what state media report is a ‘new type’ of intercontinental ballistic missile in a photo pictured on Thursday

Long-range and nuclear tests were paused when Kim and then US president Donald Trump engaged in a high-profile bout of diplomacy that subsequently collapsed in 2019. Talks have since stalled.

The launch comes at a delicate time for the region, with South Korea going through a presidential transition until May, and the US distracted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

South Korea’s military responded to Thursday’s launch with live-fire drills of its own missiles launched from land, a fighter jet and a ship, underscoring a revival of tensions as diplomacy remains frozen. 

It said it confirmed readiness to execute precision strikes against North Korea’s missile launch points as well as command and support facilities.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters the United States requested an open Security Council meeting on the launch and looks forward to having it on Friday.

The United States also imposed fresh sanctions against five entities and individuals located in Russia and North Korea over transferring sensitive items to the North’s missile program, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.

Thursday’s test was North Korea’s 12th round of weapons launches this year and represented the most provocative test since President Joe Biden took office.

This picture shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, seen in black, posing with North Korean military personnel who took part in the test launch

Analysts noticed the Hwasong-17, pictured above, appeared ‘considerably larger’ than North Korea’s last new ICBM, the Hwasong-15, which was test fired in November 2017

The Hwasong-17: North Korea’s largest – and deadliest – ICBM

Potential altitude: 3,850 miles

Potential range: At least 8,100 miles 

Warhead: Up to four nuclear weapons 

Warhead weight: Up to 7,700 lbs.

Missile weight: Up to 330,000 lbs. 

Missile length: 85 feet 

Diameter: 9.5 feet 

North Korea’s resumption of nuclear brinkmanship reflects a determination to cement its status as a nuclear power and wrest badly needed economic concessions from Washington and others from a position of strength, analysts say. 

Kim may also feel a need to trumpet his military accomplishments to his domestic audience and drum up loyalty while the country faces economic difficulties.

The North this year has also launched a purported hypersonic weapon, a long-range cruise missile and an intermediate-range missile that could reach Guam, a major U.S. military hub in the Pacific.

The U.S. and South Korean militaries previously said the North was preparing for a full-range test of the Hwasong-17 after concluding two of the recent midrange launches included components of the new ICBM.

Following a highly provocative streak in nuclear explosive and ICBM tests in 2017, Kim suspended such testing in 2018 ahead of his first meeting with then-President Donald Trump. But negotiations derailed in 2019 when the Americans rejected North Korean demands for a major release of U.S.-led sanctions against the North in exchange for a limited surrender of its nuclear capabilities.

The ICBMs launched in three 2017 test flights demonstrated they could reach into the U.S. mainland. 

The ‘new’ missile is believed to be the Hwasong-17, pictured here being unveiled at a military parade in Pyongyang in October 2020, the country’s largest and most destructive weapon

The larger Hwasong-17 may be intended to be armed with multiple warheads to overwhelm missile defenses.

North Korea’s government in January had issued a veiled threat to end Kim’s moratorium on ICBM and nuclear tests, citing U.S. hostility.

South Korea’s military has also detected signs that North Korea may be restoring some of the nuclear-testing tunnels it detonated just before Kim’s first meeting with Trump in 2018.

Some experts say the North may resume nuclear testing in coming months to claim it has acquired an ability to build nuclear warheads small enough to fit on some of its new delivery systems, including the hypersonic missile.

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