Latest missile simulated nuclear counterattack

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Monday described its recent ballistic missile launch as a simulated nuclear attack on South Korea, as leader Kim Jong Un urged its nuclear forces to ramp up their wartime readiness amid expanding military exercises by his rival with the United States.

The report by Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency came after South Korea’s and Japanese militaries on Sunday determined that North Korea had fired a short-range ballistic missile into waters off its east coast. The launch came less than an hour before the United States flew long-range B-1B bombers for joint training with South Korean fighter jets as part of the largest combined Allied training exercise in years, which the North has condemned as a rehearsal for a possible invasion.

KCNA said the missile, which flew about 800 kilometers (500 miles), was armed with a dummy nuclear warhead and that the test confirmed the reliability of the weapon’s nuclear explosion control devices and warhead fuses. It said the launch was the final step in a two-day exercise that also included nuclear command and control exercises and training military units to more quickly transition to a nuclear counterattack posture.

Kim, who attended the missile launch with his daughter, according to media photos, instructed his military to consistently conduct such drills that simulate actual wartime conditions in order to “more perfectly prepare the units for their active stance of launching an immediate and overwhelming nuclear counterattack at any time.”

Kim said his enemies are “growing in their aggressive moves,” called for the need to “exponentially” increase his nuclear deterrent, and set out unspecified “strategic tasks” for the advancement of his nuclear forces and enhancing their war readiness, dubbed KCNA . This indicated that the North could step up its arms demonstrations in the coming weeks or months.

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Sunday’s short-range launch marked the North’s fifth missile event this month and third since joint drills by US and South Korean forces began on March 13. The drills, which are set to continue through Thursday, will include computer simulations and field exercises that are the largest of their kind since 2018.

The North’s test spate that year included a series of short-range missiles fired from land vehicles, cruise missiles fired from a submarine, and two separate flight tests of ICBMs fired from its main airport near the capital Pyongyang, as it attempts to demonstrate a dual capability of conducting nuclear strikes on South Korea and the US mainland.

The latest ICBM test last Thursday came hours before South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol traveled to Tokyo for a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida aimed in part at restoring security ties between often-estranged US allies in the face of North Korea’s nuclear weapons threats.

North Korea has already had a record year in testing activity, with more than 70 missiles fired in 2022, while Kim accelerates a nuclear push aimed at forcing the United States to accept the idea of ​​the North as a nuclear power and imposing much-needed sanctions negotiate liberation from a position of strength.

The North also dialed in its weapons demonstrations last year when the allies conducted joint drills, including a series of rocket and artillery fires that it described as simulated nuclear attacks on South Korean and US targets. One of the missiles fired from the north in November flew toward the populated South Korean island of Ulleung, triggering air raid sirens and forcing residents to evacuate. South Korea quickly responded by launching its own missiles in the same border area off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula.

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North Korea has long portrayed the US-South Korean military drills as rehearsals for an invasion, although allies describe the drills as defensive. Many experts say North Korea is using its rivals’ exercises as an excuse to aggressively expand its nuclear arsenal and overall military capabilities.

In New York, at the request of the United States, the United Kingdom, Albania, Ecuador, France and Malta, the UN Security Council called an emergency open meeting Monday morning in response to North Korea’s ICBM launch on March 16.

The UN Security Council held an informal meeting on Friday at which the US, its allies and human rights experts highlighted what they believe to be the dire legal situation in North Korea. China and Russia condemned the meeting as a politicized move that could further escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula.

North Korea’s UN mission issued a statement Sunday calling the meeting illegal because of “our non-existent ‘human rights issue’.” It also said the US held Friday’s meeting “while hosting the aggressive joint military exercise that poses a serious threat to our national security.”


Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

Kim Tong-hyung, The Associated Press


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