State media said Monday that North Korea claimed its recent barrage of missile launches were tests of its tactical nuclear weapons to “hit and wipe out” possible South Korean and US targets.
Kim Jong Un, the leader, hinted that he might carry out more provocative tests in the coming weeks.
The North’s statement, which was made on the 77th birthday of its ruling Workers’ Party, is seen as an effort to strengthen public support for Kim as he deals with economic hardships brought on by the pandemic, a security threat from the strengthened US-South Korean military alliance, as well as other challenges.
“Through seven times of launching drills of the tactical nuclear operation units, the actual war capabilities … of the nuclear combat forces ready to hit and wipe out the set objects at any location and any time were displayed to the full,”,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said.
According to KCNA, the recent naval exercises between US and South Korean forces, which involved the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, prompted the missile testing.
North Korea decided to stage “the simulation of an actual war” in response to what it saw as a military threat in the drills in order to test and strengthen its war deterrence and warn its adversaries, according to KCNA.
North Korea views US-South Korean military exercises as a practice for an invasion, despite the partners’ adamant denials to the contrary. The US and South Korean forces have been increasing their drills since the May inauguration of a conservative government in Seoul. Previously, these exercises had been dialed back because of the epidemic and the now-dormant nuclear negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington.
A nuclear-capable ballistic missile was launched under a reservoir in the northeast, another ballistic missile also simulating the loading of tactical nuclear warheads intended to strike a South Korean airfield, and a new type of ground-to-ground ballistic missile that flew over Japan were all part of the launches, all of which were overseen by Kim, according to KCNA.
Informing South Korea and the United States of North Korea’s nuclear reaction stance and assault capabilities, Kim said the launches were “an obvious warning” to them, according to KCNA.
“The US and the South Korean regime’s steady, intentional and irresponsible acts of escalating the tension will only invite our greater reaction, and we are always and strictly watching the situation crisis,” KCNA said.
Kim reiterated that he has no plans to resume the disarmament negotiations with the United States at this time and would rather to concentrate on increasing his arsenal of weapons.
“Saying that the enemies have still talked about dialogue and negotiation while posing military threats to us, but we have no content for dialogue with the enemies and felt no necessity to do so,” Kim was quoted as saying. “Above all, we should send a clearer signal to the enemies escalating the regional situation by involving the huge armed forces in any time with more powerful and resolute will and action.”
In response to probable future actions by South Korea and the United States, Kim declared he would severely take whatever vague military measures were required. In order to fulfill their obligations of preserving the North’s dignity and sovereign rights, Kim further expressed his certainty that his military’s nuclear combat forces will retain “their strongest nuclear response posture and further strengthen it in every way.”
According to some experts, Kim’s remarks imply that he may conduct additional high-profile weapons tests, such as his nation’s first nuclear test in five years. North Korea is reportedly still prepared to conduct its seventh nuclear test and is also getting ready to test a new liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile and a submarine-launched ballistic missile, according to South Korean sources.
US government representatives have pushed North Korea to resume negotiations without restrictions on any kind. However, North Korea has stated that it will not do so unless the US first lifts its hostile policies toward the North, an apparent allusion to ongoing military exercises between the US and South Korea and US-led economic sanctions.
According to some experts, Kim would eventually try to utilize his sophisticated nuclear program to convince the US to recognize North Korea as a legitimate nuclear state, which Kim believes is necessary to have the UN sanctions against his country lifted.
“North Korea has multiple motivations for publishing a high-profile missile story now,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul. “Kim Jong Un’s public appearance after a month-long absence provides a patriotic headline to mark the founding anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party.”
“Pyongyang has been concerned about military exercises by the US, South Korea and Japan, so to strengthen its self-proclaimed deterrent, it is making explicit the nuclear threat behind its recent missile launches. The KCNA report may also be a harbinger of a forthcoming nuclear test for the kind of tactical warhead that would arm the units Kim visited in the field,” Easley said.