The festivities marked the launch of the Hwasong-15 missile earlier this week, which North Korean officials claim can reach anywhere in the mainland United States. Civilians took part in dances, while soldiers marched through the streets laughing and hugging.
“The successful test-fire of the new-type ICBM Hwasong-15 has thrown all servicepersons and civilians of the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] into great joy and excitement,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a statement Thursday. “Dancing parties were displayed by working people of various circles and youth and students in different parts of Pyongyang.”
“The participants danced to the tune of songs ‘Our Leader Loved by the People’ and ‘The Country of the People,’ extending the highest glory and warmest congratulations to respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, who registered a great success in accomplishing the historic cause of completing the state nuclear force and brought about such spectacular victory as putting an end to the history of aggression and nuclear threat by the imperialists.”
The celebrations in Pyongyang came after Wednesday’s declaration by the government that North Korea is now a nuclear state.
“After watching the successful launch of the new type ICBM Hwasong-15, Kim Jong-un declared with pride that now we have finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, the cause of building a rocket power,” said the statement read out by a television presenter, as quoted by Reuters.
The Hwasong-15’s test launch on Wednesday was personally overseen by Kim Jong-un. The missile is larger than previous models, and its home-produced mobile launcher vehicle bypasses the need to buy the weapons system from China. Some experts, however, believe the missile can reach no further than the US West Coast if the launch is undertaken with a real payload, and not a practice dummy.
North Korea has claimed that its ICBM and nuclear capabilities are for deterrence only.
“The development and advancement of the strategic weapon of the DPRK are to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country from the US imperialists’ nuclear blackmail policy and nuclear threat, and to ensure the peaceful life of the people, and therefore, they would not pose any threat to any country and region as long as the interests of the DPRK are not infringed upon,” read an official statement in the Rodong Sinmun newspaper.
Recent months have seen rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula with the United States and its allies on one side and the DPRK on the other. While Pyongyang keeps pursuing its nuclear program and missile testing in spite of international condemnation, Washington and its allies continue to carry out provocative military maneuvers near the DPRK’s borders. Meanwhile, both sides have heated up the rhetoric. In November, US President Donald Trump added North Korea to a list of state sponsors of terrorism, paving the way for more sanctions.
Russia and China have proposed a road map for settling the Korean crisis through transition to negotiations, which implies rejection of any actions that fuel tensions. The proposal called for North Korea to curb its nuclear and missile tests in return for the US giving up on joint military drills with South Korea in the region, but it was rejected by Washington. A group of Russian MPs, who visited Pyongyang earlier this week, said that the North Korean side expressed readiness to engage in talks, but demanded that Moscow play a mediating role.