Kim Jong-un lauds his first ICBM test in years
"Under the direct guidance of dear Comrade Kim Jong-un, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's new intercontinental ballistic missile, Hwasong-17 was launched on March 24," the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Friday, using the North's full official name.
KCNA also released a photograph of the North Korean leader's handwritten order for the ICBM launch and reported his description of the test as "a great display of the power of our independent defense industry, which has grown and pioneered as a self-reliant force."
In firing what it called an ICBM, Pyongyang is directly challenging the Joe Biden administration in Washington, and thumbing its nose at the extensive sanctions against the country for its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program. Since late 2017, Pyongyang has stuck to a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear weapon and long-range missile tests.
"Our national defense capabilities will be equipped with strong military technology that will withstand any military threat and blackmail and thoroughly prepare for a long-term confrontation with U.S. imperialism," Kim was quoted by KCNA as saying.
Thursday's test came two weeks after South Korea elected a new conservative president, Yoon Suk-yeol, who has emphasized a posture of "peace through strength" to deter provocations by North Korea. That suggests a harder line towards the regime in Pyongyang than outgoing President Moon Jae-in's.
In response to Thursday's suspected ICBM test, South Korea's military launched several warning missiles for the first time since 2017, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a text sent to reporters.
Less than two hours after the North Korean launch, South Korea fired one Hyunmoo-2 missile and one Army Tactical Missile System from the country's eastern coast. Hyunmoo is South Korea's main ballistic missile system, and new versions of the system in recent years are tipped with progressively more powerful warheads designed to penetrate and destroy underground bunkers.
"Our military is monitoring the North Korean military's movements and have confirmed that we have the capability and posture to accurately strike the origin location of the missile launch and command and support facilities any time North Korea launches a missile," the JCS said.
BY MICHAEL LEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]