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Seoul, March 17 – North Korea test-fired a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in a show of the “toughest response posture” of its strategic forces against “aggressive” massive combined drills by the US and South Korea, Pyongyang’s state media reported on Friday.
The nation’s leader Kim Jong-un “guided” the launch on Thursday together with his young daughter Ju-ae, as it served as an occasion to “give a stronger warning to the enemies intentionally escalating the tension” on the peninsula, according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
It cited the “unstable security environment” in the region attributable to “provocative and aggressive large-scale war drills”, referring to the South Korea-US Freedom Shield (FS) exercise underway in a program coupled with major field trainings, reports Yonhap News Agency.
The drill involving the Hwasong-17 was “aimed at confirming the mobile and normal operation and reliability of the country’s nuclear war deterrent”, the KCNA said.
It confirmed “the war readiness of the ICBM unit and the exceptional militancy of the DPRK’s strategic forces and strictly verified their reliability,” it added, using the acronym for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The KCNA said the ICBM, launched at Pyongyang International Airport, reached a maximum altitude of 6,045 km and flew 1,000.2 km for 4,151 seconds before accurately landing on the preset area in the open waters off the East Sea.
The Hwasong-17, called by observers here the “monster missile”, was apparently shot at a lofted angle.
It came hours before South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol had summit talks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo amid Washington’s campaign to bolster trilateral security cooperation with the two key regional allies to counter the North’s nuclear and missile threats.
Kim was quoted as stressing the need to “strike fear into the enemies” and warning that the allies’ persistent military moves against the North will only bring “irreversible, grave threat” onto themselves.
He emphasized that the North will “react to nuclear weapons with nukes and frontal confrontation in kind” and called for “strictly maintaining the rapid response posture of the strategic forces to cope with any armed conflict and war”.