In a swift and robust response to a report that North Korea’s missile testing program has improved in recent months, Pyongyang’s foreign ministry expressed “regret” Monday over the United States “over setting up a stage for the resumption of war hysteria.”
“We pay high regard to our supreme leader and his political leadership in the face of such an audacious plotting by those who have never been able to see and fully grasp the greatness of our supreme leader,” the ministry said in a statement, which was carried by the North’s official KCNA news agency.
On Sunday, the South Korean government released an assessment of what was known about Pyongyang’s missile tests in 2017. That report concluded that the regime has “more than tripled” the flight range of some missiles and “accumulated considerable speed” on its missiles in 2017. It also said North Korea had strengthened the range of its long-range ballistic missiles, and tested two varieties of rockets in the last few months that may be capable of striking the United States.
Asked about the report, President Trump responded: “Well, I think it’s very sad. I think it’s very, very sad.”
Speaking to reporters at a White House press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump said North Korea was no threat to the United States, and that the government in Pyongyang had long since made up its mind about its weapons program and would not give up “easy” nuclear weapons.
“All I can say is I am not worried about North Korea, I am very much worried about what’s happening on the southern border,” he said. “What is happening on the southern border is a disgrace.”
The South Korean report noted that North Korea often changed its assessment of its missile arsenal when it was denied a rocket launch it had tried to conduct.
While North Korea denied its missile tests, Pyongyang’s plan to claim success on January 6 followed a series of North Korean missile launches last year, some which observers have seen as signs that Pyongyang could be preparing to test a missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.