By Josh Smith
SEOUL (Reuters) -North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his country's ultimate goal is to possess the world's most powerful nuclear force, as he promoted dozens of military officers involved in the recent launch of North Korea's largest ballistic missile, state media reported on Sunday.
The announcement comes after Kim inspected a test of the country's new Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), and pledged to counter U.S. nuclear threats with nuclear weapons on Nov. 18.
Building the nuclear force is for reliably protecting the dignity and sovereignty of the state and the people, and "its ultimate goal is to possess the world's most powerful strategic force, the absolute force unprecedented in the century," Kim said in the order promoting the officers.
He called the Hwasong-17 the "world's strongest strategic weapon" and said it demonstrated North Korea's resolve and ability to eventually build the world's strongest army.
North Korean scientists have made a "wonderful leap forward in the development of the technology of mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles," Kim said, without elaborating.
Posing for photos with the scientists, engineers, military officials and others involved in the test, Kim said he expects them to continue to expand and strengthen the country's nuclear deterrent at an extraordinarily rapid pace.
Those workers issued an oath of allegiance and faith to the ruling party, vowing to defend the "absolute authority" of the party and Kim, and vowing that "our missiles will fly vigorously only in the direction indicated" by him.
They said Kim had "carefully taught us one by one" during the development of the Hwasong-17.
Capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, the missile launch prompted the United States to call for a United Nations Security Council presidential statement to hold North Korea accountable for its missile tests, which are banned by Security Council resolutions.
North Korea's powerful Standing Committee of the Supreme People's Assembly awarded the Hwasong-17 missile the title of "DPRK Hero and Gold Star Medal and Order of National Flag 1st Class", KCNA reported in another statement, using the initials of the country's official name, Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"(The missile) clearly proved before the world that the DPRK is a full-fledged nuclear power capable of standing against the nuclear supremacy of the U.S. imperialists and fully demonstrated its might as the most powerful ICBM state," KCNA said.
The test fire demonstrated that North Korea will react in kind to "the enemy's nuke and full-frontal confrontation," the report said.
(Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Leslie Adler)