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North Korea says it's launching missiles as training for real-life strikes on US bases

Donald Trump has described North Korea as a “big, big problem”.

Image: Ahn Young-joon AP/Press Association Images

NUCLEAR-ARMED NORTH Korea said today its missile launches were training for a strike on US bases in Japan, as global condemnation of the regime swelled.

Three of the four missiles fired yesterday came down provocatively close to US ally Japan, in waters that are part of its exclusive economic zone, representing a challenge to US President Donald Trump.

In separate phone calls, Trump – whose rhetoric on the campaign trail had raised doubts about the issue – reaffirmed Washington’s “ironclad commitment” to Japan and South Korea.

The US will demonstrate to Pyongyang that there were “very dire consequences” for its actions, the White House said in a statement.

The United Nations Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting for tomorrow after a request by Washington and Tokyo to discuss additional measures following the launch.

Under UN resolutions, Pyongyang is barred from any use of ballistic missile technology, and the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said on Twitter that the world “won’t allow” North Korea to continue on its “destructive path”.

But six sets of UN sanctions since its first nuclear test in 2006 have failed to halt its drive for what it insists are defensive weapons.

‘Feasting his eyes’

Kim Jong-Un gave the order for the drill to start, the North’s official Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

“Feasting his eyes on the trails of ballistic rockets”, he praised the Hwasong artillery unit that carried it out, it said.

“The four ballistic rockets launched simultaneously are so accurate that they look like acrobatic flying corps in formation, he said,” the agency added, referring to Kim.

The military units involved are “tasked to strike the bases of the US imperialist aggressor forces in Japan in contingency”, KCNA said.

The Korean version of the KCNA report said the North’s missile launch demonstrated its readiness to “wipe out” enemy forces with a “merciless nuclear strike”.

A series of photographs published by the North’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed Kim watching the missiles rise into the air and another of him smiling gleefully, clapping with other officials.

Seoul and Washington last week began annual joint military exercises that always infuriate Pyongyang.

It regularly issues threats against its enemies, and carried out two atomic tests and a series of missile launches last year, but yesterday was only the second time its devices have come down in Japan’s EEZ.

The launches came ahead of a trip by new US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to the region.

Choi Kang, an analyst at the Seoul-based Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said the launch was a warning to Tokyo.

“North Korea is demonstrating that its target is not just limited to the Korean peninsula anymore but can extend to Japan at anytime and even the US,” he said.

Trump has described North Korea as a “big, big problem” and vowed to deal with the issue “very strongly”.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said yesterday the administration was taking steps to “enhance our ability to defend against North Korea’s ballistic missiles”.

The New York Times reported at the weekend that under former president Barack Obama the US stepped up cyber attacks against North Korea to try to sabotage its missiles before launch or just as they lift off.

- © AFP, 2017

Read: North Korea is holding at least 11 Malaysians ‘hostage’

Read: “A new stage of threat”: Condemnation of North Korea as missiles reach Japanese waters

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