Pyongyang threatens to rain down more missiles

North Korean leader describes latest launch as prelude to further action against Guam

North Korea's intermediate-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 lifting off from the launching pad at an undisclosed location near Pyongyang on Aug 29, 2017.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has warned that more missile tests are on the cards, saying its latest launch was like a "real war" and a prelude to further action against the US territory of Guam.

Mr Kim, who reportedly oversaw Tuesday's launch of a missile that flew over Japan, called it "the first step of the military operation of the Korean People's Army in the Pacific and a meaningful prelude to containing Guam". His comments came as global leaders discussed how to deal with the escalation in tensions.

South Korean President Moon Jae In and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke on the phone yesterday, agreeing to ramp up pressure on the North to an "extreme level" to force it to return to the negotiating table. They also agreed to push for a United Nations Security Council sanctions resolution including more specific and effective measures against the North, said South Korea's presidential Blue House.

The UN Security Council had unanimously condemned the North's firing of the missile that landed off Hokkaido waters, calling it an "outrageous" threat. It did not mention more sanctions, though Japan's UN Ambassador Koro Bessho expressed hopes for a strong resolution.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China is discussing a response with other UN Security Council members, but ruled out unilateral sanctions against the North.

US President Donald Trump has warned that "all options" are on the table. Reports say he has appointed a South Korea ambassador, but some fear his choice of hawkish academic Victor Cha, who worked under the Bush administration, could bring confrontation with Pyongyang.

North Korea has intensified missile and nuclear tests since Mr Kim assumed power in 2011, in order to develop a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can hit the US. Last month, it tested two missiles described as ICBMs.

Yesterday, the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper ran pictures of the launch near Pyongyang. In one, Mr Kim smiles as he sits at a desk with a map of the Northwest Pacific, and in another, he is shown gazing at the missile. The Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missile launch marks Pyongyang's 14th missile test this year.

"It is necessary to positively push forward the work for putting the strategic force on a modern basis by conducting more ballistic rocket launching drills with the Pacific as a target in the future," he was quoted as saying by the official Korean Central News Agency.

Analysts said North Korea was determined to show that it is capable of striking Guam.

Dr Choi Kang of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies said North Korea wanted to send a clear message that it was not bluffing about its missile capability. "It means they can do it (strike Guam) whenever they feel is necessary," he said. "If they back down this time, the credibility of their verbal threat will disappear."


Join ST's Telegram channel here and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2017, with the headline Pyongyang threatens to rain down more missiles. Subscribe