North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said Wednesday his country had achieved full nuclear statehood after successfully testing a new missile capable of hitting anywhere in the United States.
The intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch snapped a two-month pause in testing by the North and poses a new challenge to US President Donald Trump who has vowed such a capability “won’t happen”.
North Korean state television brought out Ri Chun-Hee, a senior broadcaster who only appears for significant developments, to announce the landmark.
“Kim Jong Un declared with pride that now we have finally realised the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, the cause of building a rocket power,” she said.
“The great success in the test-fire of ICBM Hwasong-15 is a priceless victory won by the great and heroic people of the DPRK,” she said, using the official abbreviated name for North Korea.
Wednesday’s missile was more sophisticated than any previously tested, state media said.
“The ICBM Hwasong-15 type weaponry system is an intercontinental ballistic rocket tipped with super-large heavy warhead which is capable of striking the whole mainland of the US,” the official news agency KCNA said.
Pyongyang said the missile reached an altitude of 4,475 kilometres (2,800 miles) and had splashed down 950 kilometres from its launch site.
At least one Western expert said the missile’s lofted trajectory suggested an actual range of 13,000 kilometres — longer than that of any previous test and one that would extend to every major US city.
Trump, who recently announced fresh sanctions on Pyongyang and returned it to a US list of state sponsors of terror, was opaque in his immediate response, as the UN Security Council agreed to meet in emergency session.
“I will only tell you that we will take care of it,” Trump said at the White House. “It is a situation that we will handle,” he added, without elaborating.
US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, stressed that diplomatic options to resolving the crisis remained “viable and open.”
But North Korea’s immediate neighbours were less restrained, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calling the test an intolerable, “violent” act and South Korean President Moon Jae-In condemning Pyongyang’s “reckless” behaviour.
It was the first missile test of any kind since September 15, and quashed speculation that the North may have held back in order to open the door to a negotiated solution to the nuclear standoff.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said it marked a significant step toward North Korea building missiles that can “threaten everywhere in the world, basically.”