North Korea’s Kim boasts new ICBM as US flies bombers

SEOUL, South Korea – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un boasted that the newly tested intercontinental ballistic missile is a “reliable and maximum capacity” weapon to contain the US military threat, state media reported Saturday. The United States responded to the North’s weapons launch by flying a supersonic bomb in a show of force.

North Korea’s Central News Agency said Kim oversaw the launch of a Hwasong-17 missile, days after its neighbors said they had discovered an ICBM launch that showed the potential to reach anywhere in the United States.

KCNA said Kim watched the launch with his wife Ri Sol Ju and his “beloved daughter” as well as senior officials. State media photos showed Kim walking hand-in-hand with his daughter, who was clad in a white suit, together watching the large missile being loaded onto a launch truck. This is the first time North Korea has published a photo of Kim’s daughter. Observers say Kim’s view of the weapons launch with his family suggests he is emboldened by his advancing nuclear program.

Friday’s launch was part of a series of missile tests in the North seen as an effort to expand its arsenal and increase its influence in future diplomacy. Some foreign experts say the Hwasong-17 missile is still under development but is the North’s long-range ballistic weapon designed to carry multiple nuclear warheads to defeat US missile defense systems.

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KCNA said the missile fired from Pyongyang International Airport traveled to a maximum altitude of about 6,040 kilometers (3,750 miles) and flew a distance of about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) before landing in a preset area in international waters off the country’s east coast. .

“The test-fire clearly proves the reliability of the new main strategic weapon system can be representative [North Korea’s] strategic forces and its strong combat performance as the strongest strategic weapon in the world,” KCNA said.

“Kim Jong Un solemnly declared that if the enemies continue to threaten [North Korea]”Recently introducing a nuclear stance means that our party and the government will resolutely act with nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons with total confrontation and all-out confrontation,” KCNA said.

Kim’s statement indicated that North Korea will continue its test activities as the United States pushes to strengthen its security commitments to its allies South Korea and Japan. There are fears that North Korea could soon conduct its first nuclear test in five years.

US B-1B bombers took part in separate joint exercises Saturday with South Korean and Japanese fighter jets in response to North Korea’s ICBM launch. South Korean and Japanese officials said their respective exercises and U.S. bombings reaffirmed their joint defense posture.

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North Korea is sensitive to the deployment of US B-1B bombers because they are capable of carrying large payloads of conventional weapons. Earlier this month, the US sent B-1B bombers to infiltrate South Korea as part of exercises, in the first such bomber flyover in five years.

On Friday, the US military held separate air exercises with South Korean and Japanese forces. South Korea’s military said it also conducted its own drills Friday simulating an air strike on North Korea’s mobile missile launchers.

The UN Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting for Monday morning on North Korea’s latest ballistic missile launch at Japan’s request. But it is unclear whether it could slap new sanctions on North Korea as China and Russia, the two veto-wielding council members, oppose moves by the United States and allies to strengthen sanctions on the North over a ballistic missile test it banned earlier this year. .

US National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson condemned Friday’s launch and said the United States would take “all necessary measures” to ensure the safety of its territories with South Korea and Japan. Vice President Kamala Harris met separately with the country’s leaders and Australia, Canada and New Zealand who attended a regional forum in Bangkok to discuss a joint response to North Korea.

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Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said Friday that depending on the weight of the potential warhead, the missile has a range of more than 15,000 kilometers (9,320 miles), “in which case it could cover the entire mainland of the United States.”

The North’s nuclear and missile arsenals are shrouded in secrecy. Some experts say North Korea is still years away from having a functioning nuclear missile, saying it has yet to prove the technology to ensure that the warhead survives the harsh conditions of atmospheric reentry. But others say North Korea may already have such capabilities given the number of years spent on its nuclear program.

In recent months, North Korea has conducted dozens of short-range missile tests that it says simulates nuclear strikes on South Korean and US targets. North Korea said the test was aimed at issuing a warning to the United States and South Korea about its military exercises that the North suspects are invasion exercises. Seoul and Washington have said their routine drills are defensive in nature.

North Korea halted weapons launches for about a week before firing a short-range ballistic missile on Thursday. Ahead of the launch, North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui threatened to launch a “fierce” military response to US moves to strengthen its security commitments to South Korea and Japan.

US President Joe Biden met with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts Nov. 13 on the sidelines of a regional meeting in Cambodia, issued a joint statement that condemned North Korea’s latest missile test and agreed to work together to strengthen deterrence. Biden reiterated the US commitment to defend South Korea and Japan with a range of capabilities, including nuclear weapons.

Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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