Seoul, South Korea –
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered the “exponential” expansion of the country’s nuclear arsenal and the development of a new, more powerful intercontinental ballistic missile, state media reported today. Sunday, after he entered 2023 with another weapons test following a record number of rocket launches. last year.
Kim’s moves are in line with the broad direction of his nuclear weapons development program as he has repeatedly vowed to increase both the quality and quantity of his arsenal. Some experts say Mr. Kim will likely continue a series of provocative weapons tests this year before he will finally try to use his expanding arsenal to win concessions such as: sanctions relief in future deals with its rivals.
“They are now trying to isolate and strangle (North Korea), which is unprecedented in human history,” Kim said at a ruling party meeting that just ended, according to the Korean Central News Agency. “The current situation calls for a redoubled effort to drastically increase military strength in order to thoroughly ensure the sovereignty, security and fundamental interests of (the country).”
Kim accused South Korea of ”preparing to build reckless and dangerous weapons” and openly declared preparations for war with the North. According to KCNA, that underscored the need for mass production of tactical nuclear weapons and called for an “exponential increase in the country’s nuclear arsenal”.
Kim also set the task of developing another ICBM system “whose main task is a rapid nuclear counterattack”, KCNA said, without elaborating.
Kim accused the US of regularly deploying nuclear strike vehicles in South Korea, promoting trilateral military cooperation with South Korea and Japan, and pushing for the creation of a regional military bloc like NATO. .
Tactical nuclear weapons and military reconnaissance satellites are among the weapons systems Kim has pledged to introduce in recent years. Other weapons he wants include multi-warhead missiles, more versatile solid-fuel ICBMs, underwater nuclear missiles and hypersonic weapons.
External concerns about North Korea’s nuclear program have grown since North Korea last year passed a new law that authorizes the preemptive use of nuclear weapons in a variety of situations and openly threatens to use them. kernel first.
In his speech at the party meeting, Kim repeated that threat.
“(Kim’s report) makes it clear that our nuclear force considers it the first mission to prevent war and protect peace and stability. However, if it is not prevented, it will perform the second mission, which will not be for defensive purposes.” KCNA said.
North Korea’s growing nuclear threats have prompted the United States and South Korea to expand regular military exercises and strengthen trilateral security cooperation that includes Japan. The US military has warned any North Korean nuclear attack against the United States or its allies and partners “will lead to the end of that regime.
“In his 2018 New Year’s speech, (Kim) first ordered mass production of warheads and ballistic missiles, and he will double his goal of expanding that number next year,” Ankit Panda said. Carnegie Endowment expert said. International peace.
Panda said references to a new ICBM appear to involve a solid fuel system. “We will see larger, solid-fuel boosters soon to be tested,” he said.
Last month, North Korea said Kim oversaw the test of a “high-thrust solid-fuel engine” for a new strategic weapon. Experts say the weapon refers to a solid-fuel ICBM, which can launch faster than a liquid-fueled ICBM because the fuel in the solid-fuel rocket is already pre-loaded inside. All of North Korea’s previously tested ICBMs used liquid propellants.
Earlier on Sunday, the South Korean military detected a missile launch from the North Korean capital area. The Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the missile flew about 400 kilometers before landing in the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff called the launch “a serious provocation” that compromises peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and around the world. It said South Korea closely monitors North Korea’s moves in coordination with the United States and maintains its readiness to respond overwhelmingly to any provocation.
The US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement that the launch highlighted the “destabilizing impact” of North Korea’s illicit weapons programs. It said US commitments to protect South Korea and Japan “remain unchanged.”
North Korea test-fired more than 70 missiles last year. North Korea’s mass testing suggests it is likely encouraged by its advancing nuclear program, although whether it has a working nuclear missile remains a source of internal debate. outside.
On Saturday, North Korea fired three short-range ballistic missiles toward its eastern seaboard.
North Korean state media confirmed Sunday that the country conducted test-firing of a super-large multiple rocket launcher to test the weapon’s capabilities. KCNA said three projectiles fired from the launch pad on Saturday accurately hit a target on the island off the east coast of the country. It said North Korea fired another projectile from its launch pad towards its eastern waters on Sunday.
Kim Jong Un said the missile launcher has put all of South Korea within striking range and is capable of carrying tactical nuclear warheads, according to KCNA.
Outside experts classify launcher-launched weapons as ballistic missiles because of their trajectory, range and other characteristics.
North Korea’s missile launch for the second day in a row comes after South Korea conducted a missile test on Friday related to its plan to set up a space-based surveillance system to better monitor North Korea. . On Friday, South Korea’s military said it had test-fired a solid-fuel rocket, a type of space launch vehicle it plans to use to put its first spy satellite into orbit in the coming weeks. next year.
Hostility between the two rival Koreas has deepened since early last week, when South Korea accused North Korea of sending drones across the nations’ heavily fortified border for the first time. after 5 years and sent his own drone towards North Korea.
South Korea has admitted it failed to shoot down any of the five North Korean drones it says were found south of the border. However, South Korea has vowed to strengthen its air defense network and stand firm against future North Korean provocations.