SEOUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – North Korea said on Wednesday it had conducted a test of an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) to counter U.S. and South Korean military drills and as a first step in military action in the Pacific to “contain” the U.S. territory of Guam.
The North’s leader Kim Jong Un ordered the missile drill to be conducted for the first time from its capital, Pyongyang, and said it was necessary to undertake more exercises with the Pacific as the target, the North’s KCNA news agency said.
“The current ballistic rocket launching drill like a real war is the first step of the military operation of the KPA in the Pacific and a meaningful prelude to containing Guam,” KCNA quoted Kim as saying. The Korean People’s Army or KPA is the North’s military.
Earlier this month, North Korea threatened to fire four missiles into the sea near Guam, home to a major military presence, after U.S. President Donald Trump said the North would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the United States.
Tuesday’s test was of the same Hwasong-12 missile Kim had threatened to use on Guam, but the test flight took it another direction, over northern Japan’s Hokkaido and into the North Pacific Ocean.
Trump, who has vowed not to let North Korea develop nuclear missiles that can hit the mainland United States, said the world had received North Korea’s latest message “loud and clear”.
“Threatening and destabilizing actions only increase the North Korean regime’s isolation in the region and among all nations of the world. All options are on the table,” Trump said in a statement on Tuesday.
The launch came as U.S. and South Korean forces conducted annual military exercises on the Korean peninsula, angering Pyongyang which sees the war games as a preparation for invasion.
North Korea has conducted dozens of ballistic missile tests under Kim in defiance of U.N. sanctions, but firing a projectile over mainland Japan was a rare and provocative move.