SEOUL — North Korea is seeking military "equilibrium" with the United States as a way to stop American leaders from talking about military options for dealing with Pyongyang, Kim Jong Un said after supervising the launch of another missile over Japan.
And North Korea would continue to run "full speed and straight" toward achieving this goal, Kim told his top missile unit, according to the latest statement from his state news agency.
For the second time in three weeks, North Korea on Friday sent an intermediate-range missile over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. It traveled for 2,300 miles in an easterly direction, landing in the Pacific Ocean. But if it had been launched south-eastward, it could easily have passed the U.S. territory of Guam, some 2,100 miles from the launch site in Pyongyang.
Kim, the North Korean leader who has pressed ahead with alarming speed on his state's nuclear and missile programs, has been threatening to "envelop" Guam with missiles if the United States does not stop its "hostile policy" toward the North.
In the latest statement, Kim said that North Korea's "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[s]."
He stressed the need for the ability to launch a "nuclear counterattack the U.S. cannot cope with," according to the Korean Central News Agency. This statement echoed previous assertions that North Korea was not seeking to attack first, but rather aiming to develop the ability to strike back.
North Korea confirmed that the missile launched Friday was, as analysts thought, an intermediate range ballistic missile that North Korea calls the Hwasong-12. It was launched from a modified truck parked at Sunan airfield, near or at the main international airport in Pyongyang.
The Hwasong-12 "zoomed to the sky with dazzling flash and big explosion," KCNA reported. The launch was celebrated in the Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the Korean Workers' Party, which devoted its first three pages to the launch. Color photos showed Kim watching the missile launch and smiling broadly.
Kim also noted that North Korea had been able to make this astonishing progress on its nuclear and missile programs despite more than a decade of international sanctions aimed at cutting off its ability to produce the parts and funding it needed.
"We should clearly show the big power chauvinists how our state attain[s] the goal of completing its nuclear force despite their limitless sanctions and blockade," Kim told his elite missile unit. North Korea has historically used the term "big power chauvinist" to refer to China.
China supported the sanctions imposed on North Korea this week in response to its huge nuclear test on Sept. 3, and its firing of a missile over Japan on Aug. 29.
The U.N. Security Council imposed its toughest sanctions to date against North Korea on Monday, setting limits on its oil imports and banning its textile exports. But the new sanctions were a compromise. To win the support of China and Russia, the United States had to tone down its demands, which included a total oil embargo and a global travel ban on Kim.