North Korea has unveiled a new submarine-launched ballistic missile, described by state media as “the world’s most powerful weapon”.
According to state media, several of the missiles were displayed at a parade overseen by leader Kim Jong-un.
The new weapon’s actual capabilities remain unclear, as it is not known to have been tested.
The show of military strength comes days before Joe Biden’s inauguration.
It also follows a rare political meeting where Kim Jong-un decried the US as his country’s “biggest enemy”.
Images released by North Korean state media showed at least four large black-and-white missiles being driven past flag-waving crowds.
Clad in a leather coat and fur hat, Kim Jong-un is pictured smiling and waving as he watched the display in Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Square, which also included infantry troops, artillery and tanks.
The official Korean Central News Agency said: “The world’s most powerful weapon, submarine-launch ballistic missile, entered the square one after another, powerfully demonstrating the might of the revolutionary armed forces.”
The event on January 14 did not showcase North Korea’s largest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). That colossal weapon is believed to be able to deliver a nuclear warhead to anywhere in the US, and its size had surprised even seasoned analysts when it was put on show last year.
North Korea’s latest display of its arsenal comes at the end of a five-yearly congress of the ruling Workers’ Party.
In his address to members last week, Kim Jong-un had pledged to expand North Korea’s nuclear weapons and military potential, outlining a list of desired weapons including long-range ballistic missiles capable of being launched from land or sea and “super-large warheads”.
He also said that the US was North Korea’s “biggest obstacle for our revolution and our biggest enemy… no matter who is in power, the true nature of its policy against North Korea will never change”.
Under Kim Jong-un’s leadership North Korea has made rapid progress in its weapons program, which it says is necessary to defend itself against a possible US invasion.
According to experts, the unveiling of the new missiles appears designed to send the incoming Biden administration a message of North Korea’s growing military prowess.
It said the projectile reached an altitude of 1,731 miles and flew 583 miles before hitting a target in the sea.
Earlier the US Pacific Command said it was an intermediate range missile.
Image source Wikipedia
While Pyongyang has appeared to have made progress, experts believe North Korea does not have the capability to accurately target a place with an intercontinental ballistic missile, or miniaturize a nuclear warhead that can fit on to such a missile.
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has called on the UN Security Council to take steps against North Korea over its latest missile test.
Moon Jae-in has ordered security and diplomatic officials to seek “Security Council measures in close co-operation with the country’s allies, including the United States,” his chief press secretary Yoon Young-chan told reporters.
In the statement on May 15, the UN Security Council stressed on the importance of North Korea “immediately showing sincere commitment to denuclearization through concrete action”.
North Korea should “conduct no further nuclear and ballistic missile tests”, it said.
The UN Security Council has imposed six sets of sanctions against North Korea since 2006.
North Korea’s KCNA state news agency said the test of a “newly developed mid/long-range strategic ballistic rocket, Hwasong-12” had gone to plan.
“The test-fire aimed at verifying the tactical and technological specifications of the newly developed ballistic rocket capable of carrying a large-size heavy nuclear warhead,” it said.
North Korea is known to be developing both nuclear weapons – it has conducted five nuclear tests – and the missiles capable of delivering those weapons to their target. Both are in defiance of UN sanctions.
However, it remains unclear whether it has the ability to make the weapons small enough to be mounted on a rocket, and it has never tested an ICBM which could reach, for example, the US.
ICBM’s are considered to have a range of about 3,750 miles, but analysts believe the missile tested on Sunday would have travelled about 2,500 miles if it had been fired at a standard trajectory rather than upwards.
The KCNA report said that, as ever, the test had been overseen by North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un.
It said Kim Jong-un had told the scientists and technicians involved “not to be complacent” but to build further “nuclear weapons and methods of delivery” until the US made “the right choice”.
The United States has decided to delay Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test scheduled for next week, Pentagon officials have announced.
The Minuteman III ICBM test was put off over concerns it could be misinterpreted by North Korea, amid fears of a conflict.
The test could be postponed till May, in what correspondents say will be portrayed by Pyongyang as a victory.
North Korea has issued a series of unusually strong threats since it was sanctioned by the UN in March for carrying out a third nuclear test.
The Minuteman III ICBM test was put off over concerns it could be misinterpreted by North Korea, amid fears of a conflict
The communist country has threatened nuclear strikes on the US, formally declared war on South Korea, and pledged to reopen a nuclear reactor in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.
A Pentagon official said the US wanted to “avoid any misperception or miscalculation” that might result from the Minuteman 3 test.
The US and South Korean officials have sought to play down fears of a conflict on the Korean peninsula in recent days.
Pyongyang will likely use the delay to its advantage in propaganda, and say the US has been forced to climb down in the face of resilience from the North Korean army.
The North Korean media are full of images of military preparedness intended to rally people behind the leadership.
On Friday, North Korea warned it would not be able to guarantee the safety of embassy staff in the event of a war, but no foreign governments have announced plans to evacuate their embassies.
Many of North Korea’s angry statements have cited annual military exercises between US and South Korean forces as provocation.
The US flew nuclear-capable B2 and B52 bombers over the South as part of the drill, and has since deployed warships with missile defense systems to the region.
This week, North Korea reportedly moved at least one missile to its east coast. It has threatened to strike the Pacific island of Guam, where the US has a military base.
North Korea’s missiles have the capability to carry nuclear warheads, but the country is not yet thought to have developed such warheads.
Many observers say that North Korea’s belligerent rhetoric appears intended for a domestic audience and at shoring up the position of Kim Jong-un, who came to power after his father’s death in December 2011.
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