SEOUL • North Korea leader Kim Jong Un praised the "perfect success" of the country's sixth and largest nuclear test and urged further weapons development, according to state media yesterday, in the face of a United States drive for tough new sanctions.
Pyongyang held a banquet, concert and performances in a weekend display of pageantry to celebrate the Sept 3 nuclear test, which the North said was a hydrogen bomb that could be fitted onto a rocket.
The blast, which came weeks after the country fired off two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that appeared to bring much of the mainland US into range, prompted global condemnation and calls to ramp up sanctions against the isolated nation.
But the North's leader appeared deaf to the international outrage and hailed the "perfect success in the test of H-bomb" at a dinner to congratulate the scientists and technicians behind the nuclear programme, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported yesterday.
Dubbing the latest test the "great auspicious event of the national history", Mr Kim called for "redoubled efforts" to complete the country's mission to fully become a recognised nuclear power.
A two-page spread carried by the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper yesterday showed photos of Mr Kim and his wife, Ms Ri Sol Ju, attending a special concert held for the nuclear scientists and technicians.
Photos released yesterday by KCNA showed the young leader breaking into a broad smile at the People's Theatre with two prominent scientists, Mr Ri Hong Sop, head of North Korea's Nuclear Weapons Institute, and Mr Hong Sung Mu, deputy director of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea's munitions industry department.
A 'GREAT VICTORY'
The recent test of the H-bomb is the great victory won by the Korean people at the cost of their blood while tightening their belts in the arduous period.
NORTH KOREA LEADER KIM JONG UN, on achieving his parallel pursuit of nuclear and economic development.
Mr Ri and Mr Hong have played vital roles in the North's nuclear programme, accompanying Mr Kim during field inspections and weapons tests, including the latest nuclear test.
Mr Ri is a former director of Yongbyon Nuclear Research Centre, North Korea's main nuclear facility north of Pyongyang, where Mr Hong also worked as a chief engineer.
In remarks, Mr Kim praised the developers for "taking the lead" in attaining the "final goal of completing the state nuclear force", in line with his parallel pursuit of nuclear and economic development.
"The recent test of the H-bomb is the great victory won by the Korean people at the cost of their blood while tightening their belts in the arduous period," Mr Kim was quoted as saying.
Mr Ri and Mr Hong's roles have also been noted overseas, prompting the United Nations, the US and South Korea to blacklist them.
A slew of brazen tests in recent months, which contravenes existing UN sanctions, has sparked surging tensions over the North Korean weapons programme.
Pyongyang says it needs nuclear arms to protect itself, but the US has accused the isolated nation of "begging for war".
The US and its allies had been bracing themselves for another long-range missile launch to mark the 69th anniversary of North Korea's founding on Saturday, but no fresh provocations were spotted while the North held numerous events to mark the holiday.
Throughout last week, South Korean officials had warned that the North could launch another ICBM in defiance of UN sanctions, amid an escalating stand-off with the US.
Washington told the UN Security Council last Friday to call a meeting today to vote on a draft resolution establishing additional sanctions on North Korea for its missile and nuclear programme.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Kim throws banquet for nuclear scientists. str.sg/nukebash