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NK leader says nuclear buildup is to ‘strike fear into enemies’

N. Korean state media confirms launch of Hwasong-17 ICBM on Thursday

March 17, 2023 - 15:58 By Ji Da-gyum
This photo, carried by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on March 17, 2023, shows the North firing a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile from the Sunan area in Pyongyang the previous day. (Yonhap)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reiterated the nation's push for nuclear buildup to “instill fear” into South Korea and the United States as they conduct large-scale joint military exercises.

Kim's threat was delivered while he was guiding the “launching drill” of the Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile Thursday. He was accompanied by his teenage daughter, Kim Ju-ae, North Korean state media reported on Friday.

“Dear Respected Comrade Kim Jong-un said he continues to make the US and South Korea, which frequently conduct large-scale military exercises on the Korean Peninsula flagrantly showing enmity toward the DPRK, aware of the recklessness of such acts,” state media said in a Korean language dispatch, referring to North Korea as the acronym of its official name, the Democratic People’s Public of Korea.

“Kim emphasized the policy of confronting and countering enemies that aim to make them realize on their own that the more they continue to step up military provocations against the DPRK, the more they will face an irreversible and grave threat.”

North Korean state media said the launching drill was aimed at making South Korea and the US “aware of the looming threat of armed conflicts and clearly show the will of our Party and government to take action to respond with overwhelming offensive measures at any time.”

The launching drill of the Hwasong-17 was ordered by the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea in tit-for-tat military action against the ongoing Freedom Shield exercise between South Korea and the US, according to state media.

The drill was aimed at “verifying agile and constant operational capabilities and reliability of the DPRK’s nuclear war deterrence,” North Korean state media said, claiming that the drill “proved the war readiness of the ICBM unit.”

This photo, carried by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 17, 2023, shows an image of Earth apparently shot from space. The North claimed to have test-fired a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile from the Sunan area in Pyongyang the previous day. (Yonhap)

North Korean state media also notably released photos of Earth likely taken from the Hwasong-17 in space.

Experts pointed out that the photos suggest the possibility of North Korea utilizing the Hwasong-17 ICBM launch as a groundwork to prepare to launch its first military reconnaissance satellite.

Pyongyang claimed that it conducted a “final-stage” test to develop a military spy satellite in December last year, elucidating that it would complete preparations by April.

Kim Dong-yub, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, pointed out that North Korea could use the ICBM launch as a venue to test satellite imaging and data transmission technologies to prepare to launch a spy satellite.

North Korea fired the ICBM from Sunan in the capital city of Pyongyang toward the East Sea on Thursday morning, according to the South Korean military.

The ICBM traveled around 1,000 kilometers, following a lofted trajectory before falling into the East Sea, the JCS said, without further details. Japan’s Defense Ministry said the IBCM appeared to have traveled for around 70 minutes with a maximum altitude of around 6,000 kilometers.

North Korea has continued its saber-rattling in protest against the 11-day, defense-oriented Freedom Shield exercise that South Korea and the US kicked off on Monday. The allies are staging the largest military exercises in years in light of escalating missile and nuclear threats from North Korea.

Pyongyang fired a total of 11 ballistic and cruise missiles on four discrete launches in 8 days from March 8 to Thursday.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry on Friday expressed deep regrets that North Korea exploited combined military exercises between South Korea and the US as a pretext for provocation. The ministry underscored that the cause and responsibility for the heightened tension on the Korean Peninsula clearly lie in North Korea’s reckless development of nuclear and missile capabilities.