North Korean leader Kim Jong-un orders stronger strike power as US remains open to talks

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered his military to boost its strike capability following another missile firing, according to state media, as tensions grow over tests that appeared to show the development of a new advanced missile system.

Key points:

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said peace and security could only be guaranteed by a “strong physical force”
  • The nation fired two suspect short-range missiles on Thursday, in what was the second such launch in five days
  • The increased tensions come amid a gridlock in dialogue after the second summit between Mr Kim and Donald Trump

Kim Jong-un’s call for a “full combat posture” follows the United States seizure of a large North Korean cargo ship accused of illicit coal shipments in violation of United Nation sanctions.

The increased tensions come amid a gridlock in dialogue after the second summit between Mr Kim and US President Donald Trump collapsed over demands for Pyongyang’s nuclear disarmament and the North Korean leader’s demands for relief from sanctions.

“[Mr Kim] stressed the need to further increase the capability of the defence units in the forefront area and on the western front to carry out combat tasks and keep full combat posture to cope with any emergency,” KCNA news agency reported.

North Korean missile launch captured in rare image

North Korean missile launch captured in rare image

A one-in-a-million shot from space has captured the moment North Korea launched what experts believe is a short-range ballistic missile.

He noted “genuine peace and security of the country are guaranteed only by the strong physical force capable of defending its sovereignty,” KCNA said, adding he “set forth important tasks for further increasing the strike ability”.

The test of two short-range missiles on Thursday and the firing of a series of projectiles on Saturday were the first missile launches by the North since an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in November 2017.

Mr Kim later declared the building of its nuclear force was complete and went on to hold three summit meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and two with Mr Trump.

Both Mr Trump and Mr Moon said the latest missile tests were not helpful but suggested they would not scupper dialogue.

“I know they want to negotiate, they’re talking about negotiating. But I don’t think they’re ready to negotiate,” Mr Trump told reporters.

This Saturday, May 4, 2019, file photo provided by the North Korean government shows a test of weapon systems, in North Korea.

“They were smaller missiles, they were short-range missiles.

“Nobody’s happy about it but we’re taking a good look and we’ll see.”

South Korea’s Mr Moon said on Thursday the tests were likely a reaction to the failed second summit with Mr Trump in Hanoi in February, but he thought North Korea remained hopeful of continuing negotiations.

The latest tests were swiftly followed by US test-launches of the intercontinental ballistic missile Minuteman III over the Pacific and the Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) off Florida.

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They also coincided with a visit to the South by US special envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun, who met his South Korean counterpart and was scheduled to hold talks with presidential Blue House and Unification Ministry officials.

During his meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on Friday, Mr Biegun said “the door is still open for North Korea to return to the negotiating table”. 

Thursday’s missiles were fired from Kusong, northwest of the capital Pyongyang.

One missile flew 420 kilometres and the other 270 kilometres, both reaching an altitude of about 50 kilometres before falling into the sea, South Korea’s military said.

North Korean state media did not give details of the missiles.