N.Korea says missile test simulates attacking South with nuclear weapons

SEOUL, Oct 10 (Reuters) – North Korea’s recent flurry of missile tests were designed to simulate showering the South with tactical nuclear weapons as a warning after major naval exercises by South Korean and U.S. forces, state news agency KCNA said on Monday.

North Korea launched two ballistic missiles early Sunday, officials in Seoul and Tokyo said, the seventh such launch since September 25.

Leader Kim Jong Un has guided drills by nuclear tactical units over the past two weeks involving ballistic missiles with mock nuclear warheads, KCNA reported, saying they were intended to deliver a strong message of war deterrence.

Sign up now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

The tests simulated striking military command facilities, main ports and airports in the south, KCNA added.

“The effectiveness and practical combat capability of our nuclear combat force was fully demonstrated as it is fully ready to hit and destroy targets at any time from any location,” KCNA said.

“Although the enemy continues to talk about dialogue and negotiations, we have nothing to talk about, nor do we feel the need to do so,” KCNA quoted him as saying.

KCNA said North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party decided to conduct the drills as an inevitable response to a large-scale mobilization of US and South Korean naval forces, including an aircraft carrier and a nuclear-powered submarine.

“The statement they released is crystal clear that this latest wave of tests was their way of signaling resolve to the US and South Korea while conducting 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 US aircraft carrier on Friday, a day after South Korea scrambled fighter jets in response to an apparent North Korean aerial bombing exercise. Read more

The naval exercises involved the USS Ronald Reagan and its strike group. The navies of South Korea, Japan and the United States also conducted joint exercises before that.

After North Korea’s statement on Monday, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol’s office said, “it is important to accurately recognize the seriousness of the security problems on the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia in order to prepare properly,” an official was quoted as saying.

The US-led UN forces are technically still at war with North Korea, as the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty.

TACTICAL nukes

North Korea had referred to only one missile as having a tactical nuclear capability, but the statement clarifies that many systems, new and old, will be assigned such a role, Panda said.

If North Korea resumes nuclear testing, it could include developing smaller “tactical” warheads intended for battlefield use and designed to fit short-range missiles like those tested recently, analysts said.

South Korean and US officials say there are signs North Korea may soon detonate a new nuclear device in underground tunnels at its Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site, which was officially closed in 2018.

Analysts say placing small warheads on short-range missiles could represent a dangerous change in the way North Korea uses and plans to use nuclear weapons.

NEW MISSILE, UNDERWATER SILOS

On October 4, the North test-fired a ballistic missile further than ever before, flying what it said was a new intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) over Japan for the first time since 2017.

Analysts confirmed that the images released by state media show an unprecedented IRBM.

“However, it is incredibly unusual that they would test a previously untested missile for the first time over Japan; it suggests a significant degree of confidence in the engine,” Panda said.

Among the other missiles shown in the images were short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs), which included KN-25 and KN-23 types as well as one with a heavy 2.5-ton payload, as well as a KN-09 300 mm Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS).

In particular, the images showed a test of a “navalized” KN-23 designed to be launched from a submarine. That missile was shown off in a test at sea last year, but this time the test was conducted in a way that simulated a launch from what state media called “a silo under a reservoir.”

This year, North Korea has seen missile launches from various locations and launch platforms, including trains, in what analysts say is an attempt to simulate a conflict and make it difficult for enemies to detect and destroy the missiles.

The KN-23 is designed to perform a “pull-up” maneuver when approaching a target, intended to help it evade missile defenses.

Sign up now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Reporting by Cynthia Kim and Jack Kim; Editing by Cynthia Osterman, Aurora Ellis, Lincoln Feast and Gerry Doyle

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Leave a Comment