North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has vowed to further bolster his country's nuclear fighting capabilities as he supervised the country's second test flight of a new intercontinental ballistic missile [ICBM] designed to strike the mainland US, state media reported.
Kim's statement on Thursday suggests North Korea would ramp up weapons testing activities to expand its arsenals in response to recent US steps to enhance its security commitment to ally South Korea.
"The present unstable situation in which the security environment on the Korean peninsula is being seriously threatened by the hostile forces every moment," Kim said, according to state media.
"[That] requires more intense efforts to implement the line of bolstering nuclear war deterrent."
The Korean Central News Agency [KCNA] disclosed Kim's comments, after confirming the North conducted a successful launch of the Hwasong-18 ICBM on Wednesday.
The launch was first reported by its neighbours soon after its liftoff.
The Hwasong-18 is a developmental, road-mobile missile, whose built-in solid propellant makes it more difficult for opponents to detect its launches in advance than liquid-fuelled missiles.
North Korea first tested the missile in April, and Kim has called it the most powerful weapon of his nuclear forces.
KCNA said the launch was meant to reconfirm the technical credibility and operational reliability of the missile.
According to KCNA, the missile was launched at a high angle to avoid neighbouring countries.
It said the weapon travelled 74 minutes and a distance of 1,001 kilometres at a maximum altitude of 6,648 kilometres before landing on the preset area in the open waters off the North’s east coast.
If launched on a standard trajectory, the missile could fly to the mainland US, though some experts say North Korea still has some technologies to master to acquire functioning nuclear-armed missiles.
South Korea, Japan and the United States criticised North Korea over the launch, which they said posed a threat to regional and international peace.
'New chain of nuclear crises'
Adam Hodge, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, said in a statement that the US will take all necessary steps to ensure the security of the American homeland and South Korean and Japanese allies.
Kim also vowed that "a series of stronger military offensive" would be launched until the United States and South Korea change their policies towards the North, KCNA said.
That signals Kim will intensify his push to modernise his missile arsenals with sophisticated weapons like the Hwasong-18.
Other weapons on Kim's publicly stated wish list are a multi-warhead missile, a hypersonic weapon, a spy satellite and a nuclear-powered submarine.
North Korea has been focusing on reinforcing its nuclear capability after Kim's high-stakes nuclear diplomacy with then US president Donald Trump collapsed in 2019 due to disputes over US-led sanctions on North Korea.
KCNA accused the US and South Korea of recently making "frantic confrontation attempts" and bringing "a new chain of nuclear crises" to the Korean Peninsula.
The United States has expanded military drills with South Korea and taken steps to enhance "regular visibility" of US strategic assets to the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea conducted about 100 missile tests since the start of last year.
Experts say Kim eventually aims to use his enlarged arsenal to win greater concessions in future diplomacy with the United States.
Wednesday's ICBM launch came two days after Kim's sister and senior adviser, Kim Yo-jong, threatened "shocking" consequences to protest what she called provocative United States reconnaissance activity near its territory.