North Korea’s recent barrage of missile launches were the simulated use of its tactical battlefield nuclear weapons to “hit and wipe out” potential South Korean and US targets, state media reported today, as its leader Kim Jong Un signaled he would conduct more provocative tests.
The North’s statement, released on the 77th birthday of its ruling Workers’ Party, is seen as an attempt to burnish Kim’s image as a strong leader at home amid pandemic-related hardships as he’s defiantly pushing to enlarge his weapons arsenal to wrest greater concessions from its rivals in future negotiations.
“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.
KCNA said the missile tests were in response to recent naval drills between US and South Korean forces, which involved the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan for the first time in five years.
Viewing the drills as a military threat, North Korea decided to stage “the simulation of an actual war” to check and improve its war deterrence and send a warning to its enemies, KCNA said.
North Korea considers US-South Korean military drills as an invasion rehearsal, though the allies have steadfastly said they are defensive in nature. Since the May inauguration of a conservative government in Seoul, the US and South Korean militaries have been expanding their exercises, which had been previously scaled back due to the pandemic and the now-dormant nuclear diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington.
The launches — all supervised by Kim — included a nuclear-capable ballistic missile launched under a reservoir in the northeast; other ballistic missiles designed to launch nuclear strikes on South Korean airfields, ports and command facilities; and a new-type ground-to-ground ballistic missile that flew over Japan, KCNA reported. It said North Korea also flew 150 warplanes for separate live-firing and other drills in the country’s first-ever such training.