Kim Jong Un threatens US with ‘more offensive actions’ after missile test

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un threatened to take “the most offensive actions” to repel what he said are growing military threats led by the United States after it oversaw the third test of its country’s most advanced missile, designed to reach the US mainland, state media reported Tuesday.

The Kim’s statement It suggests that it is confident in its growing missile arsenal and that it will probably continue testing weapons before next year’s presidential elections in the United States. But many observers say that North Korea still needs to conduct more significant tests to demonstrate that it has functional missiles aimed at the US mainland.

After watching the launch on Monday of Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missile, Kim said the test showed how North Korea could respond if “enemies” continue “with the wrong options,” according to the Korean Central News Agency.

Kim emphasized that “we will never stand idly by in the face of the enemies’ reckless and irresponsible military threats of all kinds… it is necessary to opt for the most advanced and threatening way and respond strongly with the most offensive actions,” ACNC noted.

The Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missile is an experimental solid-fuel projectile considered Pyongyang’s most powerful weapon. Its integrated solid fuel makes it more difficult to detect launches for third parties than liquid fuel models, which must be refueled before takeoff.

However, many international experts believe North Korea still must overcome other technological obstacles to acquiring reliable intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads, such as how to protect the warheads from harsh conditions of reentry into the atmosphere.

According to ACNC, the missile—launched at a high angle to avoid neighboring countries— traveled 1,002 kilometers (622 miles) during 73.5 minutes and reached a maximum altitude of 6,518 kilometers (4,050 miles) before falling into waters east of the country. Kim “was very satisfied” with the trial, which he described as “a demonstration (…) of the formidable attacking force” of its armed forces.

It was the third test of the Hwasong-18. The previous two were in April and July. “Based on his statement, this appears to have been a signaling and development exercise,” said Ankit Panda, an expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“Technically there is nothing new here, from what I can tell at this preliminary moment, although they are certainly winning confidence with its new intercontinental ballistic missile of solid fuel.”

Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said the test was another sign of progress in its missile engine technology, although he added there were still limits to what it could learn. North Korea with launches on those trajectories.

“Testing the warheads’ aiming and re-entry capabilities would involve provocative launches at greater distances,” Easley said. “So there will likely be both more significant trials of technology and diplomacy in the new year.”

ACNC stated that a recent meeting between United States and South Korea on its nuclear deterrence plan openly revealed its intention to carry out joint maneuvers with a simulated nuclear attack on North Korea.

It was an allusion to the second meeting of the Nuclear Consulting Group between high-level officials from both countries, held on Friday. During their meeting in Washington, the two countries agreed to update their nuclear contingency and deterrence strategies and incorporate nuclear operation scenarios into their joint summer military exercises, according to officials in Seoul.

North Korea interprets the growing alliance of Washington, Seoul and Tokyo as a security threat and has sought to respond by strengthening ties with China and Russia.

North Korea recently faced outside suspicions that it had received advanced weapons technology from Russia in exchange for providing conventional weapons to support Russia’s war in Ukraine.