Asia Pacific

North Korean leader praises nuclear scientists, urges bolstered nuclear force

by Jesse Johnson

Staff Writer

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has lauded the country’s nuclear scientists and technicians behind its sixth nuclear test last week — purportedly of a hydrogen bomb — with a banquet and other events, urging them to continue their work building what state media on Sunday called “the strongest nuclear bombs in the world.”

There was no specific date for the events, but they were believed to have been held Saturday, as the isolated country marked its foundation day.

Though no launches were detected on the anniversary, South Korea, Japan and the United States remained on high alert for a fresh missile test. Seoul had warned earlier last week that Pyongyang might fire a long-range missile to mark the anniversary.

At the banquet, Kim lavished praise on those involved in the country’s nuclear program and the sacrifices they had made, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said.

“The recent test of the H-bomb is the great victory won by the Korean people at the cost of their blood while tightening their belts in the arduous period,” it quoted Kim as saying.

At the banquet, Kim reportedly urged the country’s nuclear scientists and technicians to continue their research “in the drive to attain the final goal of completing the state nuclear force.”

The North Korean leader also appeared with his wife, Ri Sol Ju, at a musical performance congratulating the nuclear scientists and technicians, as well as at a photo session with those involved in the atomic program, KCNA said.

At the photo session, Kim said the test of a “super-powerful Juche-based thermonuclear weapon” had dealt “a merciless sledge-hammer blow to the U.S. imperialists and their vassal forces.”

“Juche,” or self-reliance, is the North’s homegrown go-it-alone ideology that is a mix of Marxism and extreme nationalism.

Pyongyang has said the latest nuclear test was of an “advanced hydrogen bomb.” While there has not been independent confirmation, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, quoting a senior U.S. official on condition of anonymity, reported late Friday that Washington believed the blast was likely of a hydrogen bomb.

The U.S. asked the U.N. Security Council on Friday to call a meeting Monday to vote on a draft resolution establishing additional sanctions on the North over its missile and nuclear programs.

In a separate KCNA commentary released late Saturday, the North said that the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump “has not yet fully understood the meaning and stern warning” it issued via its “ICBM-ready hydrogen bomb test.”

The White House has taken a tact of ratcheting-up pressure on Pyongyang while also reiterating that “all options are on the table” — including military action — to rein it in.

The United States’ “talking about war and threat of harsh sanctions will enhance only the Korean people’s revolutionary consciousness and add justification to the DPRK’s access to nukes,” the commentary said, using the acronym for the country’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“Now there are only two ways for the U.S. to go: one is to admit the strategic position of the DPRK as a nuclear power of Juche and world-level military power and renounce its hostile policy,” it added. “The other is to face the miserable end through persistent confrontation with the DPRK.”

Washington, it said, “should never forget the position of the DPRK as a full-fledged nuclear power.”

Pyongyang has lambasted Washington for its “hostile policy” toward the country and demanded that it be recognized as a nuclear power, indicating that such recognition is a prerequisite for any negotiations.