(ATTN: ADDS unification ministry's response in paras 5-6)
By Yi Won-ju
SEOUL, March 25 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Friday that it successfully test-fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), called the Hwasong-17, the previous day on the direct order of its leader Kim Jong-un.
Making an on-site inspection of the test, Kim stressed his country would be "fully ready for long-standing confrontation with the U.S. imperialists," according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
Kim was quoted as adding, "The new strategic weapon of the DPRK would make the whole world clearly aware of the power of our strategic armed forces once again." DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"He stressed that our national defense forces would possess formidable military and technical capabilities unperturbed by any military threat and blackmail and keep themselves fully ready for long-standing confrontation with the U.S. imperialists," the KCNA said in its quite lengthy English-language report.
In response, South Korea's unification ministry handling inter-Korean affairs issued a strongly-worded statement condemning the North for its latest missile launch.
"We strongly urge North Korea to immediately cease its actions that raise tensions on the Korean Peninsula and destabilize the security of the region, and to return back to the negotiating table for dialogue regardless of what the North's intention is," Cha Deok-cheol, the ministry's deputy spokesperson, told a regular press briefing.
As he oversaw the firing, meanwhile, Kim warned that any forces infringing upon the security of his country should be aware that it will have to pay a "dear price."
He provided detailed guidance nearly every day to ensure that the Hwasong-17 was completed as a "reliable nuclear war deterrence means," the KCNA said, calling the new weapon system a "fruition of self-reliance."
The ICBM flew 1,090 kilometers for 4,052 seconds at a top altitude of 6,248 km before "accurately hitting the pre-set area" in the East Sea, the KCNA said.
South Korea's military said Thursday that it detected the launch from the Sunan airfield in Pyongyang at 2:34 p.m. and the missile flew some 1,080 kilometers at a top altitude of over 6,200 km.
Shortly after the launch, South Korean President Moon Jae-in presided over an emergency meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) and strongly condemned the North's test-firing.
The White House on Thursday also strongly condemned the missile launch and called on Pyongyang to "immediately cease its destabilizing actions."
Thursday's launch marked the North's first ICBM launch since 2017 in a move sharply escalating tensions in the region.
It was Pyongyang's 12th show of force this year, ending its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile testing.
In April 2018, Pyongyang declared a moratorium on nuclear and ICBM tests amid Seoul-brokered diplomacy that led to the first-ever summit between the United States and the North in Singapore in June of the same year.
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