North Korea celebrates landmark ICBM launch

PYONGYANG • Fireworks lit up the sky over Pyongyang's Juche Tower as North Korea celebrated its launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), a milestone in its decades-long weapons drive.

The stone monument to the ideology of founder Kim Il Sung stands in the centre of the capital, topped by a red glass flame, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

Under current leader Kim Jong Un, Mr Kim's grandson, the isolated, impoverished country has made rapid progress towards its dream of building a missile that can deliver a nuclear warhead to the United States.

On Tuesday - the US' Independence Day - North Korea launched a Hwasong-14 rocket that analysts and overseas officials said had a range of up to 8,000km, which would put Alaska and Hawaii within reach.

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Mr Kim Jong Un, who personally oversaw the launch, described it as gift to "American bas*****".

Thousands of officials, soldiers and citizens gathered in the capital on Thursday night to rejoice.

"We enthusiastically celebrate the successful test launch of the intercontinental ballistic rocket, the greatest landmark in the history of our republic," read a banner across Kim Il Sung Square, AFP reported.

Attendees included Mr Kim Yong Nam, the titular head of state, and top general Hwang Pyong So, the state Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

Thousands of officials, soldiers and citizens gathered at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang on Thursday to celebrate the successful launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Analysts said the Hwasong-14 rocket had a range of up to 8,000km, which
Thousands of officials, soldiers and citizens gathered at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang on Thursday to celebrate the successful launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Analysts said the Hwasong-14 rocket had a range of up to 8,000km, which would put Alaska and Hawaii within reach. PHOTO: REUTERS

Speakers "warmly congratulated the national defence science soldiers on striking the US imperialists on the face", KCNA reported. If "US imperialists commit even the slightest military provocation" against the North, it cited them as saying, its army would "show to the world how the territory of the US will be reduced to ashes".

The crowds listened impassively, before women in traditional dress and men in shirts and ties danced in formation on the plaza. The first song was Glory To General Kim Jong Un, KCNA reported.

Meanwhile, the US rejected a proposal from China and Russia that the US and South Korea suspend joint military exercises in exchange for North Korea halting nuclear and missile tests, reported South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

After summit talks in Moscow earlier this week, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin made the so-called "freeze-for-freeze" proposal in a bid to defuse escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

US State Department spokesman Heather Nauert said at a regular briefing on Thursday that the US opposes the proposal.

"There's no equivalency between the United States and its activities and actions that it undertakes with its allies, including South Korea and also Japan. These are something that are lawful," she said.

The US wants China to do much more to increase pressure on North Korea over its nuclear arms and ballistic missile programmes and will continue to urge Beijing to curb Pyongyang's activities, the State Department said on Thursday.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2017, with the headline 'North Korea celebrates landmark ICBM launch'. Print Edition | Subscribe