North Korea’s launch of a missile over Japan was a prelude to more military operations directed at the American territory of Guam, North Korean state media warned Wednesday.
The country’s state-run Korean Central News Agencyreported leader Kim Jong Un presided over the dawn launch Tuesday of the “ultra-modern rocket system,” the first missile ever fired from the capital Pyongyang.
North Korean officials told CNN in Pyongyang that Kim was “very satisfied with the performance of the missile.”
The intermediate-range missile, identified by the North Koreans as the Hwasong-12, flew over Japan, further fueling tensions between North Korea and the United States and its allies, Japan and South Korea.
Early Wednesday, the US conducted a test intercept of a medium range ballistic missile off the coast of Hawaii, according to a statement from the US Missile Defense Agency.
A US official told CNN the test was planned for a long time, before North Korea’s launch.
The North Korean launch was “the first step of the military operation of the (North Korean military) in the Pacific and a meaningful prelude to containing Guam,” state media said.
Guam governor’s office said in a statement there is no change in the island’s threat level.
“We knew, based on North Korea events in previous years, that with the joint exercise between the US, South Korea, and its Allies, we can expect rhetoric and activity in North Korea,” said George Charfauros, Guam homeland security adviser.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe both now believe “pressure on North Korea should be raised to its limit so that North Korea will voluntarily come to the table for dialogue,” South Korean presidential spokesman Park Su-hyun said in a statement Wednesday.
The two also agreed that the United Nations Security Council should enact more detailed and effective sanctions against North Korea. A new round of sanctions against Pyongyang were unanimously approved by the Security Council earlier this month.
Guam has long been a focal point of North Korea’s anger against the US and is often a target of North Korean saber-rattling.
It was threatened specifically by North Korea in 2013 and again earlier this month, following a fiery exchange of threats and insults between Trump and the North Korean regime.
The small island in the Western Pacific is the closest US territory to North Korea and hosts two important US military installations.
One is Andersen Air Force Base, from which the US has been staging B-1 bomber flights over the Korean Peninsula, often in response to North Korea’s missile tests.
The US flew bombers over North Korea following Pyongyang’s two successful tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles in July.
Following Wednesday’s missile interception test, MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves said the US “will continue developing ballistic missile defense technologies to stay ahead of the threat as it evolves.”