SEOUL, Oct 10 (Reuters) – North Korea has conducted a series of recent missile tests aimed at simulating the release of tactical nuclear weapons into South Korea following a large-scale naval exercise between South Korean and U.S. forces, the Korean Central News Agency said on Monday.
North Korea fired two ballistic missiles early on Sunday, its seventh since Sept. 18, officials in Seoul and Tokyo said. 25.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has over the past two weeks directed exercises by nuclear tactical forces involving ballistic missiles with simulated nuclear warheads, which he said were aimed at sending a strong message of war deterrence, KCNA reported.
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The KCNA news agency added that the tests simulated prominent military command facilities, major ports and airports in the south.
“The effectiveness and actual combat capability of our nuclear combat force is fully demonstrated as it stands ready to strike and destroy targets from any location,” KCNA said.
“Even if the enemy continues to talk about dialogue and negotiation, we have nothing to talk about, and we feel no need to do so,” Kim Jong-un was quoted as saying by the Korean Central News Agency.
KCNA said the decision by North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party to conduct the exercises was an inevitable response to the massive mobilization of the U.S. and South Korean navies, including an aircraft carrier and a nuclear-powered submarine.
“The statement they issued was very clear that the recent flurry of tests was their way of showing resolve to the US and South Korea as they conducted their own military activities,” said Ankit Panda of the US-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. .
The United States and South Korea held joint maritime exercises involving a U.S. aircraft carrier on Friday, a day after South Korea dispatched fighter jets in response to North Korea’s apparent aerial bombardment exercise.read more
The naval exercise involved the USS Ronald Reagan and its strike group. Previously, the navies of South Korea, Japan and the United States also conducted joint exercises.
After North Korea’s statement on Monday, South Korean President Yoon Seol-yeol’s office said it was “important to accurately recognize the seriousness of the security issues on the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia in order to prepare,” an official said.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida separately condemned Pyongyang’s recent missile launch and vowed to “completely denuclearize North Korea in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions.”
“This series of ballistic missiles (launches) and these various provocative acts is a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions and is absolutely unacceptable,” Kishida told reporters when asked to comment on Monday’s statement.
Because the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty, U.N. forces led by the United States are still technically at war with North Korea.
tactical nuclear weapons
Panda said North Korea only mentioned that one missile had a tactical nuclear capability, but the statement clarified that many systems old and new would be given such a role.
If North Korea resumes nuclear tests, it could include the development of small “tactical” warheads for battlefield use, which are designed to fit on recently tested short-range missiles, analysts said.
There are signs North Korea may soon detonate a new nuclear device in an underground tunnel at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, which officially closed in 2018, South Korean and U.S. officials said.
Analysts say the installation of small warheads on short-range missiles could represent a dangerous change in the way North Korea deploys and plans to use its nuclear weapons.
New missile, underwater silo
On Oct. 4, North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile farther than ever, flying a so-called new Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) missile over Japan for the first time since 2017.
Analysts confirmed that photos released by state media did indeed show the previously unseen IRBM.
“However, it is very unusual for them to test a previously untested missile over Japan for the first time; it shows a considerable degree of confidence in the engine,” Panda said.
Other missiles shown in the photo include the Short-Range Ballistic Missile (SRBM), which includes the KN-25 and KN-23 variants with a 2.5-ton payload, and the KN-09 300mm Multiple Rocket System (MLRS).
The photos specifically show tests of a “maritime” KN-23 designed to be launched from a submarine. Last year, the missile underwent a test in the ocean, but this time in a way that simulated a launch from what state media called a “silo under a reservoir.”
This year, North Korea has tested missiles from various locations and launch platforms, including trains, in what analysts say is a simulated conflict that makes it difficult for the enemy to find and destroy the missiles.
The KN-23 is designed to perform a “pull-up” maneuver when approaching a target, designed to help it evade missile defenses.
(This story has been refiled to fix the spelling of “Kishida” in paragraphs 12-13)
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Reporting by Cynthia Kim and Jack Kim; Additional reporting by Kantaro Komiya; Editing by Cynthia Osterman, Aurora Ellis, Lincoln Feast and Gerry Doyle
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