North Korea hits back at UN missile condemnation

It threatens to take steps as a full-fledged military power after latest test-firing

SEOUL • North Korea has hit back at a United Nations Security Council statement condemning its latest test-firing of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), and threatened to take further steps as "a full- fledged military power".

The 15-member council had agreed last Friday to "continue to closely monitor the situation and take further significant measures" against North Korea, just days after the SLBM launch.

A spokesman for the North's Foreign Ministry yesterday labelled the UN statement a "product of brigandish acts of the US" and said Washington had ignored a warning about "hurting its dignity".

"Now that the US posed threats to the dignity and the right to existence of the DPRK (North Korea) defying its serious warning, it will continue to take a series of eventful action steps as a full-fledged military power," said the spokesman.

"The DPRK has substantial means capable of reducing aggression troops in the US mainland and the operation theatre in the Pacific to ashes in a moment," the spokesman added in a statement carried by the North's official KCNA news agency.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last Thursday described the latest SLBM test as the "greatest success" and said it put the US mainland and the Pacific within striking range.

The missile, launched from a submerged prototype "Gorae-class" submarine near the north-eastern port of Sinpo, flew 500km towards Japan, marking what analysts called a clear step forward for the North's nuclear strike ambitions. The flight distance, which was tracked by South Korea's military Joint Chiefs of Staff, far exceeded any previous SLBM tests, suggesting significant progress in technical prowess.

A proven SLBM system would take North Korea's nuclear strike threat to a new level, allowing deployment far beyond the Korean peninsula and a "second-strike" capability in the event of an attack on its military bases.

The US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said late last Friday on its closely watched website, 38 North, that the success of North Korea's SLBM test suggests the programme may be progressing faster than originally expected.

"However, this does not mean it will be ready next week, next month, or even next year," it said. "Rather, the pace and method of the North's SLBM testing would suggest possible deployment in an initial operational capability by the second half of 2018 at the earliest."

Despite the North's successful test, the country faces significant technological challenges, including building a new class of submarine to carry the missile.

Last month, 38 North reported that the North was building infrastructure to construct new submarines at the Sinpo South Shipyard. "A new submarine could probably be built within a two-to-three-year timeframe, but the likelihood of building new models without further testing and refinement of the experimental Gorae-class seems low," it said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2016, with the headline 'North Korea hits back at UN missile condemnation'. Print Edition | Subscribe