US and Seoul launch retaliatory missiles into sea, as North Korea’s Kim Jong-un laughs and calls ICBM his ‘July 4 gift’
North Korean leader Kim, who oversaw ICBM test, reportedly mocks US by saying ‘we should send them gifts once in a while to help break their boredom’
The US Army and South Korean military have retaliated against North Korea’s launch of an apparent intercontinental ballistic missile, firing their own volley of missiles into South Korean territorial waters along the country’s eastern coastline, US Pacific Command said in a statement.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un meanwhile described the ICBM test as his independence day“gift” to “American bastards”.
After personally overseeing the launch, the Korean Central News Agency reported, “[Kim] said American bastards would be not very happy with this gift sent on the July 4 anniversary”.
Breaking into peals of laughter, it said, he “added that we should send them gifts once in a while to help break their boredom”.
The US-South-Korean launches on Wednesday were directly in response to “North Korea’s destabilising and unlawful actions,” Pacific Command said.
The US Army used its Army Tactical Missile System and South Korea used its Hyunmoo Missile II, which can be deployed rapidly and provide “deep strike precision capability, Pacific Command said.
The South Korean-US military alliance “remains committed to peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and throughout the Asia-Pacific,” Pacific Command said. “The US commitment to the defense of the [Republic of Korea] in the face of threats is ironclad.”
On Tuesday, North Korea launched a missile that flew higher and remained in the air longer than previous attempts, enough to reach all of Alaska, experts said, in a milestone for North Korea’s weapons program.
The United States asserted Tuesday that North Korea’s latest missile launch was indeed an intercontinental ballistic missile, as Pyongyang had boasted. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called the ICBM launch a “new escalation of the threat” to the US.
At the request of the US, Japan and South Korea, the United Nations Security Council was to hold an emergency session on Wednesday afternoon. Tillerson said that was part of a US response that would include “stronger measures to hold the DPRK accountable,” using an acronym for the isolated nation’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“Global action is required to stop a global threat,” Tillerson said. “Any country that hosts North Korean guest workers, provides any economic or military benefits, or fails to fully implement UN Security Council resolutions is aiding and abetting a dangerous regime.”
He said the US “will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea.”
The US Army describes the missiles it used on Tuesday as long-range, all-weather guided missiles. They are designed to be precise in nature, and can be used beyond the range of artillery and rockets.
The US missile system can be used to take out ground combat units, surface-to-surface missile units, air-defense units, helicopter re-arming and refueling systems or communications sites, according to an Army fact sheet.
Some of the missiles in the system are designed to deliver a single, 230kg warhead on a target through the use of satellite guidance, while others distribute hundreds of smaller bomblets over a larger distance, according to the Army.
Dana White, a Pentagon spokesperson, confirmed in a statement Tuesday night that the missile North Korea used was an intercontinental ballistic, and described it as a “escalatory launch.”
“The launch continues to demonstrate that North Korea poses a threat to the United States and our allies,” White said. “Together with the Republic of Korea, we conducted a combined exercise to show our precision fire capability.”
White said that the United States remains prepared to defend itself and allies and to use “the full range of capabilities at our disposal against the growing threat from North Korea.” The United States seeks only the peaceful denuclearization of the Korea Peninsula, and its commitment to its allies is ironclad, she added.
Additional reporting by Associated Press and Agence France-Presse