SEOUL (REUTERS) - North Korea boasted on Tuesday (Feb 8) that it was one of only a handful of countries in the world to field nuclear weapons and advanced missiles and the only one standing up to the United States by "shaking the world" with missile tests.
International tension has been rising over a recent series of North Korean ballistic missile tests, actions long banned by the UN Security Council. January was a record month of such tests, with at least seven launches of nine missiles including a new type of "hypersonic missile" able to manoeuvre at high speed.
Also among the tests was the first firing since 2017 of a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile, capable of striking US territories in the Pacific Ocean.
"In today's world where many countries waste time dealing with the United States with submission and blind obedience, there's only our country on this planet that can shake the world by firing a missile with the US mainland in its range," North Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
The series of tests since New Year represented "remarkable achievements" that strengthened North Korea's "war deterrence", the statement on the ministry's website said.
"There are more than 200 countries in the world, but only a few have hydrogen bombs, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and hypersonic missiles," it said.
Asked to comment, the US State Department repeated past statements that it harboured no hostile intent towards North Korea and urging a return to dialogue, calls Pyongyang has persistently ignored.
A State Department spokesperson also called North Korea a threat to international peace and security and global nonproliferation efforts.
“The United States has a vital interest in deterring (North Korea), defending against its provocations or uses of force, limiting the reach of its most dangerous weapons programs, and above all keeping the American people, our deployed forces, and our allies safe,” the spokesperson said.
Jenny Town, director of 38 North, a Washington-based North Korea programme, said the fact that North Korea’s statement came from its foreign ministry probably made the statement less threatening than if might appear.
“The formulation is very passive. Not that they will do it, but that they can,” she said.
The statement cited the Hwasong-15, the longest-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) ever tested by North Korea, which was test fired once in 2017 and is believed to have the range to deliver a nuclear warhead anywhere in the US, as well as the Hwasong-12, which North Korea once threatened to use on Guam.
Talks to persuade Pyongyang to give up or limit its arsenal in return for sanctions relief have been stalled since 2019.
The US called on North Korea on Monday to defund its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and prioritise the needs of its own people.
US and South Korean officials say they fear the launch of the Hwasong-12 on Jan 30 could be a step towards fully resuming tests of North Korea's ICBMs or nuclear weapons. North Korea has not conducted a nuclear test or fired an ICBM since 2017.
A Washington think-tank said on Monday it has identified a military base close to North Korea's border with China that is likely intended for stationing ICBMs.