The North Korean leader
has yet again promised more missile flights over Japan, insisting his nuclear-armed nation’s provocative launch was a mere “curtain-raiser”, in the face of UN condemnation and US warnings of severe repercussions.
The Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missile that Pyongyang unleashed on Tuesday represented a major escalation of tensions over its weapons programmes.
In recent weeks, it has threatened to send a salvo of missiles towards the US territory of Guam, while President
Donald Trump has warned of raining “fire and fury” on the North.
After the latest launch, Mr Trump said that “all options” were on the table, reviving his implied threat of pre-emptive US military action just days after congratulating himself that Mr Kim appeared to be “starting to respect us”.
The UN Security Council – which has already imposed seven sets of sanctions on Pyongyang – said in a unanimous statement the North’s “outrageous” actions “are not just a threat to the region, but to all UN member states”.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
Both the North’s key ally China, and Russia, which also has ties to it, backed the US-drafted declaration, but it will not immediately lead to new or tightened sanctions.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said yesterday that Beijing would make a “necessary response” to the launch, but said consensus would be needed on any fresh set of sanctions.
The Rodong Sinmun newspaper, mouthpiece of the North’s ruling party, yesterday carried more than 20 pictures of the launch near Pyongyang.
One showed Mr Kim smiling broadly at a desk with a map of the Northwest Pacific, surrounded by aides.
South Korea’s military said on Tuesday that the missile had travelled around 2,700km and reached a maximum altitude of 550km.
Independent analysts posted images online suggesting that Mr Kim’s map showed an intended flight path of 3,200km, implying that the missile may have fallen 500km short.
The official Korean Central News Agency cited Mr Kim as saying that “more ballistic rocket launching drills with the Pacific as a target in the future” were necessary.
Tuesday’s launch was a “meaningful prelude to containing Guam, advanced base of invasion”, he said, and a “curtain-raiser” for the North’s “resolute countermeasures” against ongoing US-South Korean military exercises which the North regards as a rehearsal for invasion.
US ambassador Nikki Haley warned that “enough is enough” and that tough action had to be taken.
She said: “Something serious has to happen.”
But despite Washington’s rhetoric, US officials privately echo the warning by Mr Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon – that a pre-emptive strike against the North is impossible given its capacity to inflict massive retaliation on the South.