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N. Korea hails missile test as step toward ‘equilibrium’ with US

This image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other officials was released by the Korean Central News Agency a day after Pyongyang test-fired a missile over Japan on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017.

COURTESY OF KCNA

By KIM GAMEL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 15, 2017

SEOUL, South Korea — Kim Jong Un hailed North Korea’s latest missile test and vowed to press forward with his nuclear weapons program despite “limitless” sanctions aimed at punishing his country.

The comments were reported Saturday, hours after the U.N. Security Council convened in an emergency session and strongly condemned the launch that occurred the day before.

The missile traveled about 2,300 miles and flew over Japan before splashing into the Pacific Ocean, military officials said. It marked the longest flight for a North Korean ballistic missile after a spate of tests.

North Korea’s state-run news agency posted several photos of a smiling Kim watching as the missile “zoomed to the sky with dazzling flash and big explosion.”

The third-generation leader said the test thoroughly verified the “combat efficiency and reliability” of the Hwasong-12 missile, the same model that flew over Japan on Aug. 29.

He said the “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 options against the North, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

The Security Council met Friday to condemn the missile test just four days after it unanimously approved the ninth round of sanctions against the North since 2006. The new measures included a cap on oil imports and a ban on textile imports but fell short of the original U.S. proposal for a full oil embargo due to opposition from China and Russia.

But North Korea has continued to make progress in its efforts to develop a nuclear-tipped weapon that could threaten the U.S. mainland.

The communist state insists its weapons program is necessary for self-defense.

“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 was quoted as saying.

Analysts say the North has made alarming progress after stepping up the pace of its testing program. It also conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3.

The Security Council accused the North of undermining regional peace and security, saying its nuclear and missile tests “have caused grave security concerns around the world.”

In its statement, the 15-nation council called on all countries to “fully, comprehensively and immediately” implement all U.N. sanctions.

China and Russia, which have veto power on the council, have been criticized for helping the North to skirt the sanctions and continue to earn foreign currency needed to fund its weapons program.

Kim’s comments suggest he has been clearly irked by President Donald Trump’s bellicose remarks in recent months.

Trump has warned he would unleash “fire and fury” against the communist state if it continues to threaten the United States. He also said the U.S. military was “locked and loaded.”

Pyongyang, in turn, has threatened to fire missiles into the waters near the Pacific island of Guam, which is home to major U.S. bases.

gamel.kim@stripes.com
Twitter: @kimgamel

This image was released by the Korean Central News Agency a day after North Korea test-fired a missile over Japan on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017.
COURTESY OF KCNA

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