North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is developing the world’s “most powerful” nuclear force, according to state media, as the pariah state ratchets up tension with the U.S. and South Korea.
Kim earlier this month posed for photos alongside developers of the Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile. In an order promoting military officials on Saturday, Kim called it “the world’s strongest strategic weapon,” according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
Experts say the Hwasong-17, which is still under development, is the country’s longest-range missile and is designed to strike the mainland U.S.
The missile, which KCNA said underwent a test launch earlier this month, was one of dozens of North Korean missile launches this year, most of which landed in surrounding waters.
U.S. officials have also accused Pyongyang of shipping weapons to Russia to aid its invasion of Ukraine, and North Korea has called recent joint military drills between the U.S. and South Korea a provocation.
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Kim’s order further described North Korea’s “ultimate goal” as possessing the “world’s most powerful strategic force, the absolute force unprecedented in the century.”
“Our great unremitting cause of building the nuclear force for reliably protecting the dignity and sovereignty of the state and the people through all ages is the greatest and most important revolutionary cause,” the order reads.
Both U.S. and South Korean officials have warned that North Korea may be preparing for a nuclear test.
At the recent photoshoot with the missile developers, Kim appeared alongside his daughter, Kim Ju Ae, in her second-ever public appearance, both in recent days, fueling speculation that she is being groomed as Kim’s successor.