North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has called on Pyongyang’s military to bolster its nuclear capabilities after ordering the launch of three ballistic missiles.
“He stressed the need to continue making miraculous achievements in bolstering up the nuclear force one after another in this historic year,” said the North’s official KCNA news agency on Monday.
Earlier, South Korea announced that the North had fired three ballistic missiles from a western region in the capital Pyongyang into the Sea of Japan, as world leaders from G20 nations are in the Chinese town of Hangzhou.
The KCNA noted that the launch had been perfect, and that Kim had voiced “great satisfaction over the successful successive firing drill of ballistic rockets.”
It added that Kim is currently guiding North Korean drills aimed at evaluating the “capabilities of the units” and the precision of the “improved ballistic rockets deployed for action.”
A South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman stated that the “missile launch is a direct violation of UN Security Council resolutions, aimed at showing off its nuclear and missile capabilities during the G20 summit.”
Following a complaint by Japan and the US, the UN Security Council announced that it will convene on Tuesday and consider a response to the test.
“Today’s reckless launches by North Korea threaten civil aviation and maritime commerce in the region,” said US State Department spokesman John Kirby. “Our commitment to the defense of our allies in the face of these threats remains ironclad.”
The UN and the West have imposed a raft of sanctions on North Korea, prompting Pyongyang to step up its nuclear activities.
In January, North Korea said it had successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb, its fourth nuclear test, and vowed to build up its nuclear program as deterrence against potential aggression from the US and its regional allies.
A month later, Pyongyang launched a long-range rocket which it said placed an earth observation satellite into orbit. Washington and Seoul denounced it as a cover for an intercontinental ballistic missile test.
North Korea says it will not give up on its nuclear “deterrence” unless Washington ends its hostile policy toward Pyongyang and dissolves the US-led command in South Korea. Thousands of US soldiers are stationed in South Korea and Japan.
The UN has adopted five rounds of crippling sanctions on the North since it first tested an atomic device in 2006 despite the nation’s critical situation, including its worsening famine.