SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw a live-fire artillery drill simulating an attack on a South Korean airfield and called on his troops to be ready to respond to “frenzied movements of readiness to the war” of the enemies – apparently referring to the recent series of military exercises between the United States and South Korea.
The North Korean state media report came on Friday a day after the South Korean military detected that the North was firing at least one short-range ballistic missile seaward from a site near the western coastal city of Nampo. The Joint Chiefs of Staff in the South were assessing whether more missiles could have been launched simultaneously.
The United States recently sent B-1B and B-52 long-range bombers for several rounds of joint air exercises with South Korean fighter jets. The allies are also preparing this month for their largest combined field training exercise in years to counter the threat from Kim’s growing nuclear arsenal. North Korea views regular U.S.-South Korean military exercises as invasion rehearsals.
Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency said Kim had urged his troops to prepare to “respond and overwhelmingly contain” military action by enemies in the North, who he said were carrying out “all sorts of more frenzied war preparation movements”.
He said frontline units should hone their capabilities to carry out their two main “strategic missions, that is, first to deter war and then to initiate war.”
Later Friday, South Korea’s Unification Ministry urged North Korea to stop raising tensions with “reckless nuclear and missile programs and military provocations.” Vice Spokesperson Lee Hyo-jung told reporters that North Korea should instead focus on people’s livelihoods and embark on the path of building peace on the Korean Peninsula.
The KCNA report did not specify what types of weapons were involved in Thursday’s exercise or how many rockets were fired. Some of the North’s new short-range weapons targeting South Korea include large multiple rocket launchers that experts say blur the lines between artillery and ballistic missile systems.
North Korea describes some of its most advanced short-range systems as tactical weapons, implying an intention to arm them with low-yield battlefield nuclear weapons.
Experts say the North with the wording communicates a threat to proactively use these weapons in conventional warfare to blunt the stronger conventional forces of South Korea and the United States, which maintain about 28,000 troops in Korea. South to help deter possible aggression from North Korea.
Kim’s comments were in line with a nuclear escalation doctrine the North enacted last year, which authorizes preemptive nuclear strikes in situations where it may perceive its leaders to be under threat, including conventional confrontations.
Photos published by North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper show at least six rockets fired from launchers lined up in an unspecified coastal forest area.
Kim watched the shooting from an observation post with military officials and her daughter, believed to be named Kim Ju Ae and believed to be around 10 years old.
She has appeared at several events related to her military since she was first showcased at an ICBM test launch in November, and analysts believe the events and high media descriptions of her of State are intended to show the world that it has no intention of voluntarily giving up its nuclear power. arms, which he apparently regards as the best guarantee of his survival and the extension of his family’s dynastic rule.
After a record year of missile testing, North Korea has conducted additional weapons demonstrations in 2023. Experts say North Korea, with its testing activity and heightened threats, is trying to claim a double ability to conduct nuclear strikes against South Korea and the Americas.
Kim’s campaign aims to force the United States to accept the North as a nuclear power and negotiate much-needed economic concessions from a position of strength, analysts say. Diplomacy between the United States and North Korea has stalled since 2019.
South Korean and U.S. militaries will conduct computer-simulated command post training from March 13-23 and resume their largest field exercises in the spring, which were last held in 2018. Regular allied exercises were canceled or scaled back to support diplomacy or due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but they were renewed after diplomacy collapsed and North Korea’s threats and weapons tests escalated.