While the United States had earlier signalled that its patience for diplomacy is wearing thin after Pyongyang fired a missile over Japan for the second time in under a month, on Saturday, North Korea said that it aims to reach an “equilibrium” of military force with the U.S.
“Our final goal is to establish the equilibrium of real force with the U.S. and make the U.S. rulers dare not talk about military option,” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was quoted as saying by the state news agency, KCNA.
In photos released by the agency, surrounded by several officials, Kim was shown beaming as he watched the missile fly from a moving launcher.
“The combat efficiency and reliability of Hwasong-12 were thoroughly verified,” said Kim as quoted by KCNA. Kim added the North’s goal of completing its nuclear force had “nearly reached the terminal”.
As it accelerates a weapons program designed to give it the ability to target the United States with a powerful, nuclear-tipped missile, North Korea has launched dozens of missiles under Kim’s leadership.
The United States was fast running out of patience with North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs, said White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster after the latest missile launch on Friday.
“We’ve been kicking the can down the road, and we’re out of road,” McMaster told reporters, referring to Pyongyang’s repeated missile tests in defiance of international pressure.
“For those … who have been commenting on a lack of a military option, there is a military option,” he said, adding that it would not be the Trump administration’s preferred choice.
The “highly provocative” missile launch by North Korea was condemned by the U.N. Security Council on Friday.
Imposing a ban on North Korea’s textile exports and capping its imports of crude oil in response to a nuclear bomb test on Sept. 3, sanctions against North Korea have been already stepped up by it.
Even as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said that Washington’s preferred resolution to the crisis is through diplomacy and sanctions, she echoed McMaster’s strong rhetoric.
“What we are seeing is, they are continuing to be provocative, they are continuing to be reckless and at that point there’s not a whole lot the Security Council is going to be able to do from here, when you’ve cut 90 percent of the trade and 30 percent of the oil,” Haley said.
U.S. President Donald Trump said that he is “more confident than ever that our options in addressing this threat are both effective and overwhelming.” North Korea “has once again shown its utter contempt for its neighbours and for the entire world community”, he said at Joint Base Andrews near Washington.
The Japanese government said that landing in the Pacific about 2,000 km (1,240 miles) to the east, North Korea’s latest test missile flew over Hokkaido in northern Japan on Friday.
Traveling far enough to reach the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, which the North has threatened before, the missile travelled about 3,700 km (2,300 miles) in total, according to South Korea’s military.
“The range of this test was significant since North Korea demonstrated that it could reach Guam with this missile,” the Union of Concerned Scientists advocacy group said in a statement. However, the accuracy of the missile, still at an early stage of development, was low, it said.
(Adapted from Reuters)