North Korea tests two cruise missiles in the presence of Kim Jong Un
North Korea has tested two “long-range strategic cruise missiles” in the presence of leader Kim Jong Un, who touted the test as another successful demonstration of the country’s nuclear attack capability, official agency KCNA reported Thursday.
The latest test is a record string of weapons tests this year that have heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula and fueled fears that Pyongyang could conduct its first nuclear test since 2017.
Kim Jong Un personally oversaw Wednesday’s rocket launches, which traveled 2,000 kilometers across the Yellow Sea, KCNA said. The agency added that the projectiles hit their intended targets without giving further details.
Kim Jong Un expressed “great satisfaction” with the tests aimed at improving the combat effectiveness of missiles “used in units of the Korean People’s Army for tactical nuclear weapons use,” KCNA said.
Pyongyang announced this week that its latest missile tests were “tactical nuclear exercises” aimed at simulating an attack on South Korea.
After Wednesday’s tests, the North Korean leader stressed that his country should “expand the operational area of strategic nuclear forces,” according to KCNA.
“Kim Jong Un stressed that we must focus all our efforts on the continuous and accelerated development of national nuclear combat forces,” the agency added.
Kim made acquiring tactical nuclear weapons — smaller, lighter weapons designed for use on the battlefield — a top priority at a key party convention in January 2021. He pledged to build North Korea’s nuclear force as soon as possible this year.
– military exercises –
Last month, the reclusive country revised its nuclear doctrine to allow for pre-emptive strikes. In addition, Mr. Kim declared that North Korea was an “irreversible” nuclear power, ending any possibility of negotiation over its arsenal.
Since then, Seoul, Tokyo and Washington have intensified their combined military drills, including twice deploying a US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to the region, provoking the wrath of Pyongyang, which has consistently denounced the drills as rehearsals for an invasion.
In response, the North staged “real war maneuvers” simulating strikes against South Korea’s ports, airports and military command facilities, the KCNA said Monday.
North Korean army units “responsible for the use of tactical nuclear weapons held military exercises from Sept. 25 to Oct. 9 to test and evaluate the country’s nuclear deterrence and counterattack capability,” the agency said.
According to state media, these exercises were also monitored by Kim Jong Un.
KCNA also claimed that the North Korean projectile that flew over Japan on Oct. 4 was a “new type of medium-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile.”
KCNA’s statements on its recent tests — which are unusual as state media no longer routinely comment on launches — appear to indicate Pyongyang is concerned about recent joint exercises led by the United States, analysts said.
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