News swept across the globe on Tuesday as North Korea announced that their nuclear weapons are within range of striking the United States.
The news came within the context of celebratory achievement.
The official Uriminzokkiri website and a member of the Korean National Peace Committee — a propaganda body — said the North was now a “fully-independent rocket and nuclear weapons state”. “The United States should be acutely aware that the US mainland is now well within the range of our strategic rockets and nuclear weapons,” the signed commentary said.
North Korea made a similar claim in October last year, saying it possessed rockets capable of striking the continental United States. That was largely dismissed as bluster, but that was before Pyongyang conducted a successful long-range rocket launch in December, followed by its third nuclear test on February 12.
Although most experts believe the North has a long way to go to developing a dependable inter-continental ballistic missile, the December launch was a strong step in the right direction. And this month’s nuclear test also fueled concerns that North Korea is refining the technical ability to place a miniaturized nuclear warhead on a long-range missile.
After analyzing debris from the rocket launch in December, the South Korean military estimated its possible range at around 10,000 kilometres (6,200 miles), bringing in the west coast of the United States.
In a separate commentary, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) slammed upcoming US-South joint military drills, and warned that the Korean peninsula was “an inch away from explosion”.
The report, monitored in Seoul, said that if Washington persists in trying to suffocate North Korea with hostile policies, the North Korean military and its people will erase the country from the face of the earth.
The online media outlet did not elaborate on what constituted hostile measures, but Pyongyang has been claiming that any move to tighten sanctions will be viewed as an act of war.
Before the latest nuclear test, which Seoul thinks resulted in a 6-7 kiloton yield, the isolationist country detonated two smaller yield fission devices in 2006 and 2009. A kiloton is equivalent to 1,000 tons of conventional explosives.
Uriminzokkiri also said that the United States, instead of learning from its defeat in the Korean War (1950-53), has stepped up efforts to invade the North. It said that Washington and its followers should realize the capability of the North to deal a decisive blow to its enemies and refrain from further provocations.
The latest report comes as Pyongyang has been claiming for some time that it has the means to strike back at the United States. The country changed its constitution last year to announce it was a nuclear power, although the international community has yet to acknowledge the status officially. North Korea has been consistently asked to abide by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and rules set by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
No U.S. official has yet to officially address North Korea’s recent bellicose language. The Guardian Express will update this breaking news as soon as U.S, officials comment on this recent rhetorical event.