North Korea says it test-fired its biggest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on the orders of leader Kim Jong Un to boost its defences and prepare for a “long confrontation” with the United States, state media reported on Friday.
Kim, dressed in a black leather jacket and sunglasses, oversaw the Thursday launch of what was described as a “new-type” of ICBM, the Hwasong-17.
The first full ICBM test by nuclear-armed North Korea since 2017 drew swift condemnation from South Korea and Japan, as well as the US. United Nations chief Antonio Guterres condemned the launch as a “clear violation” of Security Council resolutions.
Watch the footage shown on North Korean state TV as it announced the launch of a new intercontinental ballistic missile
According to state media, the weapon was launched from Pyongyang International Airport, travelled up to a maximum altitude of 6 248 km (3 880 miles) and flew a distance of 1 090 km (680 miles) during a 67-minute flight before falling into the Sea of Japan.
Kim ordered the test because of the “daily-escalating military tension in and around the Korean peninsula” and the “inevitability of the long-standing confrontation with the US imperialists accompanied by the danger of a nuclear war,” the official news agency for North Korea, KCNA, reported. Kim said:
The emergence of the new strategic weapon of the DPRK would make the whole world clearly aware of the power of our strategic armed forces once again.
Any forces should be made to be well aware of the fact that they will have to pay a very dear price before daring to attempt to infringe upon the security of our country.
North Korea has carried out nearly a dozen missile tests since the start of the year that analysts say are aimed at forcing the US to accept North Korea as a nuclear power and remove the international sanctions that had crippled the economy even before Pyongyang sealed its borders because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Kim Jong-ha, a security analyst at Hannam University in South Korea, predicts that the latest development will further strain relations with the U.S. and South Korea.
The latest launch comes when Yoon Suk-yeol, South Korea’s newly-elected conservative president who has promised a more robust policy towards Pyongyang, is due to take office in May, while the attention of the US, the South’s key ally, is focused on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The UN Security Council is expected to hold an emergency meeting on the test on Friday, but condemnation or new sanctions could be hard to achieve amid divisions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Russia’s veto.
More: Al Jazeera