Kim Jong-un wants North to reach military ‘equilibrium’ with US as Trump calls crisis talks with Japan, South Korea
The recluse East Asian nation fired an intermediate-range missile on Friday, responding to latest round of UN sanctions
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has vowed to complete Pyongyang’s nuclear programme as he seeks to achieve a military “equilibrium” with the United States.
The recluse East Asian nation fired a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile over the Japanese island of Hokkaido on Friday, responding to a new round of UN sanctions over its sixth nuclear test with its furthest-ever missile flight.
“Our final goal is to establish the equilibrium of real force with the US and make the US rulers dare not talk about military option for the DPRK,” Kim said, according to the Korean Central News Agency.
Kim said the country was close to completing its nuclear ambitions and should finish the task, and that Friday’s launch had increased the country’s “combat power of the nuclear force”, KCNA reported.
“We should clearly show the big power chauvinists how our state attain the goal of completing its nuclear force despite their limitless sanctions and blockade.”
The UN Security Council condemned the latest launch as “highly provocative” and US President Donald Trump scheduled crisis talks with Japan and South Korean leaders.
But arming South Korea and Japan – North Korea’s closest adversaries – with nuclear weapons to counter the threat from Kim’s regime is not an option, China’s ambassador to the US said.
Ambassador Cui Tiankai said in Washington that the potential spread of nuclear weapons in the region would not bring security to anybody and “only make things much worse”.
“We are certainly opposed to the existence of nuclear weapons anywhere on the Korean peninsula ... anywhere.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin and French leader Emmanuel Macron appealed to the US and Japan to engage in talks with North Korea, saying it was the only way to resolve tensions.
The US and Japan have called for pressure to be ramped up through sanctions rather than talks.
Russia and China – North Korea’s main ally – on Monday backed a US-drafted resolution at the Security Council to impose fresh sanctions on Pyongyang – but they maintain dialogue is needed to defuse the crisis.
The sanctions imposed on Monday banned the North’s textile trade, stopped new work permits for its labourers, and imposed restrictions on shipments of oil products, among other measures.
US Pacific Command confirmed that Friday’s rocket did not pose a threat to North America or to the US territory of Guam, which Pyongyang has threatened with “enveloping fire”. Seoul’s defence ministry said it probably travelled about 3,700km.
Video broadcast by the North’s Korean Central TV showed a missile blasting off from a mobile transport vehicle and it soaring through clouds.
Yang Uk, analyst with the Korea Defence and Security Forum, said Kim’s ambition of achieving a military balance with Washington was some way off.
“It’s too unrealistic for North Korea to reach equilibrium in nuclear force with the US,” he said.
The North has raised global tensions with its rapid progress in weapons technology under Kim, who is regularly pictured by state media overseeing launches and visiting facilities.
“The latest launch, which was apparently made from a TEL [transporter erector launcher or missile vehicle] instead of a makeshift launch pad, means the North is now ready to deploy the IRBM Hwasong-12 for combat purposes,” Yang said.
“The North appears to have resolved technical difficulties in launching the missiles from TELs. With its mobility being increased, Hwasong-12 poses an imminent threat to the US and its allies in the region,” he said.
The North’s previous missile launch, a Hwasong-12 IRBM just over two weeks ago, also flew over Japan’s islands.
“Within three to five years, the North is expected to be capable of operating nuclear missiles as deterrence,” Yang said.
In response to Friday’s launch, South Korea’s military immediately carried out a ballistic missile drill of its own, with the defence ministry saying it took place while the North’s rocket was still airborne.
President Moon Jae-in told an emergency meeting of Seoul’s national security council that dialogue with the North was “impossible in a situation like this”.