Government media outlets in North Korea confirmed on Friday that communist dictator Kim Jong-un had tested a “new-type” intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which is described as a direct threat to the United States and the latest addition to the “state nuclear force.”
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), a government agency, published photos and video of Kim Jong-un wearing a leather jacket and surrounded by cheerful soldiers. Several of the images of Kim feature the dictator marching in front of what appears to be the missile itself, featuring imagery that the Reuters news agency compared to the American film Top Gun. State television published video, apparently edited to air in slow motion, featuring Kim walking in front of the missile as dramatic music played for effect:
The state newspaper Rodong Sinmun declared the missile launch, which South Korea’s military confirmed Thursday, a resounding success. Images published in state media showed Kim smiling before cheering soldiers:
North Korea has no independent media, and the Kim regime treats the consumption of any content not produced by the state as a crime, often punishable by death.
“The missile, launched at Pyongyang International Airport, traveled up to a maximum altitude of 6 248.5 km and flew a distance of 1 090 km for 4 052s before accurately hitting the pre-set area in open waters of the East Sea of Korea,” according to the state newspaper.
Rodong Sinmun suggested that the missile, which it identified as “a new type inter-continental ballistic missile Hwasongpho-17,” would be part of “a plan for building up the state nuclear force” and would “creditably perform its mission and duty as a powerful nuclear war deterrent of putting under strict control the nuclear war threats and challenges against the DPRK [North Korea].”
The Rodong Sinmun description of the development and launch of the missile featured effusive praise for Kim’s “deep insight” and alleged personal initiative in creating the weapon. The propaganda outlet also repeatedly identified America as the prime target of the missile.
“With his deep insight into the ever-changing international political situation, the root cause of the daily-escalating military tension in and around the Korean peninsula,” the newspaper claimed, “and the long-term demand of our revolution that stems from the inevitability of the long-standing confrontation with the U.S. imperialists accompanied by the danger of a nuclear war, the General Secretary put forward the Juche-oriented defence development strategy and the policy of bolstering in a sustained way the nuclear war deterrence at the historic 8th Congress of the WPK.”
Rodong Sinmun claimed Kim personally led in “organizing and directing the crucial endeavors for bolstering the national defence capabilities” to create the missile and “provided detailed guidance and directions almost every day.” Kim allegedly obtained a degree in physics from Kim Il-sung University, though much of his personal life and expertise are not public knowledge.
North Korean state media claimed that Kim, following the missile test, specified that its development was meant as a threat to America.
“He said that any forces should be made to be well aware of the fact that they will have to pay a very dear price before daring to attempt to infringe upon the security of our country,” according to Rodong Sinmun. “He stressed that our national defence forces would possess formidable military and technical capabilities unperturbed by any military threat and blackmail and keep themselves fully ready for long-standing confrontation with the U.S. imperialists.”
“He affirmed that the strategic forces of the DPRK are fully ready to thoroughly curb and contain any dangerous military attempts of the U.S. imperialists,” the newspaper concluded.
The return to ICBM testing, which Kim had abstained from since at least 2017, is timed with the election of a new president in South Korea, who has promised to end current President Moon Jae-in’s policy of concessions and silence in the face of North Korea’s litany of human rights abuses against its own people. President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol of the conservative People Power Party asserted during his campaign that he would more closely align his policies to those of the United States. In comments to South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo on Wednesday, an anonymous source “on the presidential transition team” said Yoon would offer North Korea “no carrots” without concessions to the South and that Yoon would not “remain silent” in the face of human rights abuses.
As president, Moon met with Kim on multiple occasions and visited North Korea, an unprecedented event. He also notoriously invited a massive North Korean delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympics – held in PyeongChang, South Korea – and opened a joint liaison office to facilitate communication between the two countries. North Korea responded to the concessions by bombing the office in 2020.
In a statement published by the presidential office, Moon lamented this week’s missile test as a “blatant violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions and a serious threat to the Korean Peninsula and the international community.”
“By conducting this latest test, the North has essentially scrapped the moratorium on ICBM testing promised by leader Kim Jong-un to the international community,” Moon reportedly said.
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