North Korea had on Tuesday launched a missile across Japan that left citizens terrified. North Korea leader Kim Jong-Un has after the first launch 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 in the face 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 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 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 actions “are not just a threat to the region, but to all UN member states”.
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 measures against Pyongyang.
The Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the mouthpiece of the North’s ruling party, on Wednesday carried more than 20 pictures of the launch near Pyongyang, one showing Kim smiling broadly at a desk with a map of the Northwest Pacific, surrounded by aides.
South Korea’s military said Tuesday that it had travelled around 2,700 kilometres (1,700 miles) and reached a maximum altitude of 550 kilometres.
The official Korean Central News Agency cited 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.
Wednesday’s statement was the first time the North has acknowledged sending a missile over Japan’s main islands. Two of its rockets previously did so, in 1998 and 2009, but on both occasions it claimed they were space launch vehicles.