North Korea warns of 'all-out' nuclear weapons response to 'threats' from U.S., allies

Kim Jong Un walks hand in hand across a flat expanse with a young woman in a white puffer jacket, a rocket with gray-and-white checkered midsection ready to launch behind them.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is shown walking hand in hand with his daughter at a missile launch test site. The photo was released Saturday by North Korea's state media agency, KCNA, and could not be independently verified by Reuters. (KCNA via Reuters)
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North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, has vowed to respond to nuclear threats with nuclear weapons, after the "hermit kingdom" fired an intercontinental ballistic missile that has the potential to reach the U.S. mainland.

The state media outlet KCNA reported Saturday that Kim attended the launch with his young daughter for the first time. Photos show the pair walking hand in hand at the test site. Little is known about Kim's personal life, and this is the first confirmation of her existence.

“Kim Jong Un solemnly declared that if the enemies continue to pose threats … our party and government will resolutely react to nukes with nuclear weapons and to total confrontation with all-out confrontation,” state media said.

On Friday, North Korea launched a Hwasong-17 missile from the capital of Pyongyang that landed in waters west of the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

Kim Jong Un, in beige jacket, looks jubilant, as his wife, Ri Sol Ju, applauds in the background, and a North Korean in military uniform pumps his fist in the air. They stand in what appears to be a command center or viewing station lined with metallic soundproofing.
Kim Jong Un, with his wife, Ri Sol Ju, in the background, is seen on the day of the missile launch. This photo was released on Nov. 19, 2022, by North Korea's state media agency KCNA and could not be independently verified by Reuters. (KCNA via Reuters)

The missile, according to Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, is believed to have flown about 620 miles at a high trajectory and reached a maximum altitude of 3,728 miles.

Depending on the weight of the warhead it carried, Hamada estimated that the missile could travel more than 9,000 miles, “in which case, all of the U.S. mainland would be included in its range,” he said.

In response to Friday’s missile launch, U.S. B-1B bombers took part in separate joint exercises with South Korean and Japanese warplanes.

It was North Korea’s second major weapons test this month, which Kim said shows that he has a weapon capable of confronting U.S.-led military threats.

The White House and world leaders condemned the launch. Vice President Kamala Harris convened an emergency meeting at the APEC summit in Thailand with leaders from Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Harris called North Korea’s launch a “brazen violation” of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions.

“It destabilizes security in the region and unnecessarily raises tensions,” Harris said. “We strongly condemn these actions, and we again call for North Korea to stop further unlawful, destabilizing acts.”

The launch comes days after President Biden said the U.S., Japan and South Korea are “more aligned than ever” over North Korea’s behavior, and reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to defend both countries with a full range of capabilities, including nuclear weapons.

President Biden shakes hands with President Xi Jinping, with their respective flags in the background.
President Biden shakes hands with President Xi Jinping of China, as they meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, on Monday. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

In response, hours before Friday’s launch, North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui warned of “fiercer” military responses. “The U.S. will be well aware that it is gambling, for which it will certainly regret,” she said, and added that recent military drills with the U.S. and its allies in the region “failed to contain” North Korea’s provocations.

After a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Bali last week, Biden said Beijing has “an obligation to attempt to make it clear” to North Korea to steer away from test-firing nuclear missiles.

While the president said he isn’t sure if China “can control” North Korea’s actions, he said: “I'm confident China's not looking for North Korea to engage in further escalatory means.”

Of nuclear tests conducted by North Korea, Biden said: "We would have to take certain actions that would be more defensive on our behalf, and it would not be directed against ... China, but it would be to send a clear message to North Korea.

“We are going to defend our allies, as well as American soil and American capacity."

On Monday, the U.N. Security Council plans to meet at Japan’s request for an emergency meeting on North Korea.

With additional reporting by Dylan Stableford.