North Korea's Kim hails missile tests as 'perfect'

South Korean K1A2 battle tanks in a military live-firing exercise outside Pocheon city near the border with North Korea.
South Korean K1A2 battle tanks in a military live-firing exercise outside Pocheon city near the border with North Korea.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

He pushes for nuclear arsenal build-up hours before UN meets to discuss latest provocation

SEOUL • Mr Kim Jong Un has labelled North Korea's latest missile tests "perfect", according to state media, as he called for the isolated state to build up its nuclear arsenal.

Hours before the UN Security Council was set to meet to discuss Pyongyang's latest military provocation, the country's supreme leader hailed Monday's firing of three mid-range weapons.

Mr Kim supervised a drill by artillery units "tasked to strike the bases of the US imperialist aggressor forces in the Pacific operational theatre in a contingency", Pyongyang's KCNA news agency said.

South Korea's defence ministry said the tests were of Rodong missiles with a range of 1,000km. It said they had been fired over the Sea of Japan (East Sea) without warning.

The Rodong is a scaled-up Scud variant with a maximum range of around 1,300km, bringing most of Japan within range.

The launches came as world leaders gathered in neighbouring China for the Group of 20 summit, sparking condemnation from Japan and the United States, which blasted them as "reckless".

In spite of tough global sanctions, Pyongyang continues to defy the international community's calls for a halt to its weapons programme.

Those calls were set to intensify yesterday when the UN Security Council convened in New York to consider a response to the latest in a series of tests, which has also included the detonation of a nuclear bomb in January.

Mr Kim expressed "great satisfaction over the successful successive firing drill of the ballistic rockets", which showed his military's capability to launch "a pre-emptive attack on the enemies any time and from any place", KCNA said.

The strategic artillery unit was "full of military might" to strike the US and its forces with "annihilating nuclear fire shower", it said.

The North's top newspaper Rodong Sinmun carried nine photos of the test, including one of a beaming Mr Kim standing in front of a map surrounded by smiling officials.

Ms Melissa Hanham, an expert on North Korea's weapons programme at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California, said it was difficult to determine so far if there had been any technical progress.

"The most obvious difference from the last test is the change in warhead," she said.

South Korea has also been displaying its latest high-tech weaponry.

At the biennial DX Korea exhibition organised by the South Korean government in Seoul, local arms manufacturers displayed the K9 self-propelled howitzer, the Surion helicopter, the K2 main battle tank and other military equipment.

Exhibitors also staged a live-fire show at a shooting range outside Pocheon city near the border with North Korea to display their artillery, mechanised infantry fighting vehicles and missiles.

Apart from South Korean companies, 80 foreign firms from the United States, Germany and Israel are also taking part in the exhibition.

South Korea's arms exports fell from US$3.6 billion (S$4.9 billion) in 2014 to US$3.4 billion last year.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2016, with the headline 'North Korea's Kim hails missile tests as 'perfect''. Print Edition | Subscribe