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Tyres, triumph and threats follow N Korea missile test

  • 4 December 2017
Kim Jong-un at the Amnokgang Tyre Factory Image copyright KCNA Image caption North Korea's Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un looks at tyres

A visit to a tyre factory might seem an unusual way to celebrate the launch of your country's largest ever ballistic missile.

But days after North Korea tested the Hwasong-15, Kim Jong-un was shown being escorted around the factory that made the tyres for the rocket's enormous transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) vehicle.

It comes as an energised Pyongyang seems to have upped its rhetoric post-launch, claiming "victory" in its nuclear programme, and promising "merciless retaliation" against "insane President Trump" as joint US-South Korea military drills take place this week.

Image copyright Reuters/KCNA Image caption The nine-axled TEL vehicle carrying Hwasong-15 towers over Kim Jong-un

Dancing in the streets

Last week's launch of the long-range missile was followed by the usual show of dancing in the streets and firework displays on North Korea's state-run television.

Television is full of images of seemingly happy workers in factories pledging their loyalty to the Kim family, interspersed with the usual patriotic imagery of the country's sacred Mount Paektu, symbol of both communist revolution and the North's claim to be the one, true Korea.

But Mr Kim's inspection of the Amnokgang Tyre Factory in Pyongyang has been given prominent coverage - with images being shown on television many times a day - and appears to carry an important message. 

Image copyright Korea Central Television Image caption North Korean citizens dance in the streets in central Pyongyang

In line with the visit, state news outlets are saying that the country's nuclear force is now "complete", and are declaring "victory" in its self-declared battle to build a nuclear missile force.

In typically bombastic language, KCNA said: "The officials and workers brilliantly carried out the order given by the Party by waging a courageous production campaign despite bottlenecks and difficulties under the uplifted banner of self-reliance."

The "bottlenecks and difficulties" here refer to sanctions against North Korea because of the very missile programme that this factory is supporting.

North Korea-watchers were astounded by the size of the TEL, which towered over the Supreme Leader as he "guided" the Hwasong-15 launch last week, and the tyre factory visit seems to be rubbing the noses of the outside world in it as a show of overcoming UN-imposed sanctions.

While the North is pleased with its latest launch, experts believe it is still some way off being able to put a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile and deliver it with accuracy against a US city.

Image copyright Korea Central TV Image caption North Korea's Central TV is full of medal-winning factory workers

'An abyss of ruin'

The aftermath of the launch has also spurred North Korea to be more bellicose towards the countries it sees as its enemies.

Taking aim at its former colonial occupier Japan, an editorial published by KCNA slams the "cult" of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for plans to build up its military.

Not withstanding the North's own million-plus armed forces, the country's state-run news agency says Tokyo is carrying out "militarist moves to realise the wild scheme for re-invading Korea".

"Its crazy drive of militarist chariot with the backing of the US will only plunge it into an abyss of ruin," the editorial said.

And it's the United States and Donald Trump for which Pyongyang saves its most confident - and insulting - words.

Image copyright KCNA Image caption Hwasong-15: A direct challenge to President Trump, or a balancing of strategic forces?

'Insane' President Trump

Responding to joint US-South Korean military exercises this week, a spokesman for the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country said "insane President Trump is running wild... stunned by North Korea completing the state nuclear force".

The military drills will be followed by "merciless retaliation", the spokesman said.

Another KCNA report refers to "the greatest glory of Kim Jong-un who frightened old lunatic Trump and his stooges" over his completion of North Korea's nuclear force.

These statements are echoed by Pyongyang's Foreign Ministry, which said on Saturday that "the Trump team is begging for nuclear war", claiming the its missile programme exists to "maintain an effective balance of force" between the US and North Korea.

With North Korea in a celebratory mood following its "victory", the world's eye are now on how the United States responds to this increased level of threat and insult.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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