North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Thursday supervised a live-fire artillery drill simulating an attack on a South Korean airfield and called for his troops to be ready to respond to “frantic war preparation moves” — apparently referring to a series of military drills between the US and South Korea.
A North Korean state media report yesterday came a day after South Korea’s military detected the North firing at least one short-range ballistic missile toward the sea from a site near the western coastal city of Nampo.
The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff was assessing whether more missiles might have been launched simultaneously.
Photo: EPA-EFE / KCNA
The US has recently sent long-range B-1B and B-52 warplanes for several rounds of joint aerial drills with South Korea. The allies are also preparing this month for their biggest combined field training exercise in years to counter the growing threat of Kim’s nuclear arsenal.
North Korea views regular US-South Korean military exercises as invasion rehearsals.
Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said that Kim urged his troops to be prepared to “overwhelmingly respond to and contain” the military action of the North’s enemies, which he said were proceeding with “all sorts of more frantic war preparation moves.”
Photo: EPA-EFE / KCNA
Frontline units should sharpen their capabilities to carry out their two main “strategic missions, that is, first to deter war and second to take the initiative in war,” he said.
South Korea’s Ministry of Unification later yesterday urged North Korea to stop raising tensions with “reckless nuclear and missile programs and military provocations.”
Ministry vice spokesperson Lee Hyo-jung told reporters that North Korea must focus instead on caring for people’s livelihoods and take a path toward building peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Photo: EPA-EFE / KCNA
The KCNA report did not specify what types of weapons were involved in Thursday’s exercise or how many rockets were fired.
Some of the North’s newer short-range weapons include large multiple-rocket launchers that experts say blur the boundaries between artillery and ballistic missile systems.
North Korea describes some of its more advanced short-range systems as tactical weapons, which implies an intent to arm them with lower-yield battlefield nuclear weapons.
Experts said that the North with the wording is communicating a threat to use those weapons during conventional warfare to blunt the stronger conventional forces of South Korea and the US, which keeps about 28,000 troops in South Korea to help deter potential aggression from North Korea.
Kim’s comments were in line with an escalatory nuclear doctrine the North set into law last year, which authorizes pre-emptive nuclear strikes in situations where it perceives its leadership as under threat, including conventional clashes.
Photographs published by North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun showed at least six rockets being fired from launch vehicles lined up in an unspecified coastal forest area.
Kim watched the firings from an observation post along with military officials and his daughter, believed to be named Kim Ju-ae and about 10 years old.
She has appeared at several events tied to his military since first being showcased at a missile test launch in November last year.
Analysts believe the events and elevated descriptions of her in state media are meant to show the world that he has no intention to voluntarily surrender his nuclear weapons, which he apparently sees as the strongest guarantee of his survival and the extension of his family’s dynastic rule.
Coming off a record year in missile testing, experts said that North Korea is trying to claim a dual ability to conduct nuclear strikes against South Korea and the US mainland.
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