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North Korea says U.S. mainland is 'in the firing range'

North Korea declared that its recent spate of missile launches shook the world and warned that the United States was "in the firing range." Photo by KCNA/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/2db5bef41c328c4e62c46935e99c438c/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
North Korea declared that its recent spate of missile launches shook the world and warned that the United States was "in the firing range." Photo by KCNA/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, Feb. 9 (UPI) -- After a record month of missile launches, North Korea boasted that its weapons tests set "the world atremble" and warned that the United States is "in the firing range" of the reclusive state's nuclear arsenal.

Pyongyang conducted seven missile tests in January, the most ever under North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, setting off international alarm bells and calls from Washington for further United Nations Security Council sanctions.

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"From the outset of the New Year, remarkable successes have been achieved in the sacred historic work to remarkably strengthen the war deterrent of our state," North Korea's Foreign Ministry said in a statement released Tuesday.

Among the weapons fired were an alleged hypersonic missile system, train-fired ballistic missiles and long-range cruise missiles. Of particular concern was the Jan. 30 launch of the Hwasong-12, an intermediate-range ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. territory of Guam.

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"In particular, when we conducted the test-launch of hypersonic missile and the evaluation test-fire of Hwasong 12-type, [international media] raised their voices of recognizing surely about our great military power," the statement said.

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The ministry also bragged of its Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, last tested in 2017 and considered by analysts to have the range to reach the continental United States.

"There are more than 200 countries in the world, but only a few countries possess even H-bomb, ICBM and hypersonic missile," the statement said. "Only our state on earth stands against the U.S. ... and sets the world atremble with a seismic amplitude from the missile test, putting the U.S. mainland in the firing range."

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Pyongyang has kept to a self-imposed moratorium on ICBM and nuclear weapons tests since a period of diplomatic rapprochement began in 2018, but Kim said in mid-January that he would "promptly examine the issue of restarting all temporally suspended activities" amid long-dormant negotiations with Washington.

The Hwasong-12 launch, which took place 10 days after Kim's remarks, was North Korea's biggest test since 2017, one that United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned as "a breaking" of the moratorium and "a clear violation of Security Council resolutions."

On Monday, a U.S. think tank presented further evidence that North Korea is preparing for an ICBM launch, saying that it had identified a recently completed missile base 15 miles from the Chinese border in Chagang Province.

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Drawing on commercial satellite imagery and informed sources, analysts at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies said the base will "likely house a regiment-sized unit equipped with intercontinental ballistic missiles."

The United States has "a vital interest in deterring" North Korea, State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter said at a press briefing Tuesday.

"That includes defending against its provocations or uses of force, limiting the reach of its most dangerous weapons programs, and above all keeping the American people, our deployed forces, and our allies safe," she said.

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