Kim Jong-un wants more ‘strategic military muscle’
After watching the successful test-firing of a hypersonic missile, Kim Jong-un called on North Korean scientists to step up work toward beefing up the “country’s strategic military muscle.”
On Tuesday, South Korean and Japanese radars detected a rocket blasting off from a launching pad in North Korea which turned out to be Pyongyang’s hypersonic missile.
The country’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper featured photos of leader Kim Jong-un attending the launch on its front page the next day. Western experts have construed this as a message to the world and America in particular, indicating that the North Korean leadership sees the hypersonic missile program as one of its top priorities, and will likely ignore Western gripes.
Pyongyang’s mouthpiece, the Korean Central News Agency, said Kim was urging military scientists to “further accelerate the efforts to steadily build up the country's strategic military muscle both in quality and quantity and further modernize the army.”
According to reports, the missile fired by North Korea on Tuesday first made a 600 kilometer (375 mile) “glide jump flight” and then 240 kilometers of “corkscrew maneuvering” before it hit a target in the sea 1,000 kilometers away.
Tuesday’s launch drew sharp criticism from the likes of South Korea and Japan, as well as the US. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland described Pyongyang’s latest show of force as dangerous and destabilizing. The US official also lamented the fact that while the US is indicating it is “open to dialogue,” North Korea opted to “fire off missiles” instead.
The EU also joined the chorus of condemnation, branding the missile launch a “threat to international peace and security.”
The UN secretary-general, António Guterres, expressed concern, too.
Multiple UN resolutions have prohibited North Korea from testing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. Pyongyang has, however, been consistently asserting its right to do so, incurring international sanctions as a result.
In fact, the country launched another rocket of this type less than a week ago, with the first North Korean-made hypersonic missile piercing the sky in September 2021.
The latest test-firing comes at a time when talks between Pyongyang on one side and Seoul and Washington on the other have all but stalled. North Korea says it is, in principle, prepared to engage in dialogue, but only after America and its allies ditch “hostile policies” and lift sanctions.