SEOUL • North Korea's latest submarine-launched ballistic missile test, conducted under the supervision of leader Kim Jong Un, was a "great success" that provided "one more means for powerful nuclear attack", the reclusive state said yesterday .
The launch on Saturday is the latest in a recent string of North Korean demonstrations of military might that began in January with its fourth nuclear test. It launched a long-range rocket the next month.
The United States, joined by Britain, said the apparent test at the weekend was a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, and called on Pyongyang to refrain from further moves that could destabilise the region.
South Korea also strongly condemned the latest provocation and said it is in talks with related countries to bring the matter before the UN Security Council, according to Yonhap news agency. France urged its European partners to adopt additional sanctions against Pyongyang.
The South Korean Defence Ministry said Saturday that North Korea fired the missile from a submarine off its east coast and it was airborne for about 30km.
Such missiles are harder to detect than those launched on land. On the same day of the launch, North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong, speaking to Associated Press in New York, said his country was ready to halt nuclear tests if the US suspended military exercises with South Korea.
He suggested that the suspension of the military drills could open the door to talks and reduced tensions.
"If we continue on this path of confrontation, this will lead to very catastrophic results, not only for the two countries but for the whole entire world as well," he told AP in a rare interview held at the country's diplomatic mission at the UN .
Pyongyang made exactly the same offer in January last year, when it was flatly rejected by the US as an "inappropriate" effort to link nuclear testing with regular military exercises. Concern has been growing that North Korea could soon conduct another nuclear test following its fourth one in January this year.
Last month, North Korea said it had miniaturised a nuclear warhead to be mounted on ballistic missiles and a simulated re-entry test of a ballistic missile, which could indicate advances in its intermediate-range ballistic missile programme.
The weekend's launch comes as Pyongyang gears up for a rare and much-hyped ruling party congress early next month - the first in 36 years - at which Mr Kim is expected to take credit for pushing the country's nuclear and missile weapons programme to new heights.
North Korea's official news agency KCNA yesterday said the test-firing was "another great success", without disclosing the date and place of the launch, which it said was guided by Mr Kim.
The agency cited the young leader as saying Pyongyang was now capable of "hitting the heads of the South Korean puppet forces and the US imperialists any time as it pleases".
"This eye-opening success constitutes one more precious gift the defence scientists and technicians are presenting to the great leaders and the party," he said.
North Korea first attempted to launch a submarine-based missile last year.
However, a series of test launches were believed to have failed, and its state media earlier carried footage that appeared to have been edited to fake success, said experts who have seen the visuals.
The missile launched at the weekend was powered by a solid fuel engine, KCNA said, which, if true, would mark a significant advance in North Korea's submarine-launched missile technology, and be a "huge leap in ambition", said Dr Jeffrey Lewis from the California-based Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE