SEOUL, March 28 (UPI) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is warning that his country is developing “overwhelming military power that cannot be stopped,” just days after the secretive state conducted its largest-ever test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, state-run media reported Monday.
Kim made the comments during a photo session over the weekend with the defense industry team behind the launch of the Hwasong-17 ICBM, which North Korea says it test-fired on Thursday.
The launch was the first time Pyongyang fired a long-range missile since 2017, ending a self-imposed moratorium on ICBM tests.
Kim said that North Korea will “continue to attain the defense up-building goal and develop much more powerful strike means to equip our army with them,” according to Korean Central News Agency.
“Only when one is equipped with the formidable striking capabilities, overwhelming military power that cannot be stopped by anyone, is it possible for one to prevent a war, guarantee the security of the country and contain and put under control all threats and blackmails by the imperialists,” he was quoted as saying by KCNA.
Kim’s remarks have amplified concerns that more weapons tests, including the possibility of a nuclear device, are in the works in North Korea.
South Korean officials said Monday that they have detected restoration work at the North’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site, which was destroyed in 2018 during a period of diplomatic rapprochement with the United States.
Seoul and Washington “are carefully monitoring the situation,” Lee Jong-joo, spokeswoman for South Korea’s Ministry of Unification, said at a press briefing.
“Though we cannot predict the North’s next move, the government is thoroughly preparing for all possibilities,” she said.
Analysts and defense officials have estimated that the ICBM North Korea fired last week has a range of more than 9,300 miles, which would put the entire United States within reach.
However, there are questions as to whether North Korea actually fired the Hwasong-17, the enormous missile it first unveiled at a military parade in 2020, as it claimed in official news reports and a Hollywood-style propaganda video.
American and South Korean intelligence sources believe that the missile was actually a Hwasong-15, an earlier model that North Korea last tested in 2017, Yonhap reported Sunday.