North Korea must be ready to launch nuclear counter strikes at any time to deter war, state media quoted leader Kim Jong Un as saying on Monday, as he accused the United States and South Korea of expanding joint military drills near the country’s doorstep.
Kim’s remarks came after “guiding” combined tactical drills of operational units simulating a nuclear counterattack against North Korea’s enemies over the weekend, which he described as having “greatly improved the actual war capability of the units,” according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
State media said a North Korean ballistic missile equipped with a mock nuclear warhead that was launched on Sunday flew about 800 kilometers (500 miles) before hitting a target at an altitude of 800 meters (0.5 miles) under the scenario of a tactical nuclear attack.
The drills allowed North Korean troops to become “familiar with any unexpected circumstances and make them more perfectly prepared in their active posture of making an immediate and overwhelming nuclear counterattack [at] anytime,” KCNA quoted Kim as saying.
Kim, who appeared in state-run media images alongside his daughter, Kim Ju Ae, said it was “very important to continuously organize and conduct such drills under the simulated conditions of an actual war.”
Ju Ae, who is believed to be around 9 years old, has been repeatedly photographed alongside her father at missile launches in recent months.
North Korea has been ruled as a hereditary dictatorship since its founding in 1948 by Kim Il Sung. His son, Kim Jong Il, took over after his father’s death in 1994. And Kim Jong Un took power 17 years later when Kim Jong Il died.
North Korea’s revelation of its nuclear counterattack simulation came after US strategic bombers took part in joint air drills with South Korean forces on Sunday as part of “Freedom Shield,” the two countries’ largest joint military exercises.
The joint drills featured US B-1B strategic bombers, F-35A stealth fighters from the South Korean Air Force and F-16 fighters of the US Air Force.
North Korea had ramped up missile launches in protest at the joint US-South Korea war games, firing submarine missiles ahead of the exercises.
Kim accused the US and South Korea of expanding joint military drills involving American nuclear assets and claimed that his enemies are getting “ever more pronounced in their moves for aggression,” which prompted his call for North Korea to “bolster up its nuclear war deterrence exponentially,” KCNA said.
North Korea’s two-day nuclear counterattack drill was divided into an exercise for managing the nuclear strike control system, including training to take on a “nuclear counterattack posture” and another drill for “launching tactical ballistic missile tipped with a mock nuclear warhead,” KCNA said.
“The drill marked an important occasion in preparing our nuclear combat force to rapidly and accurately perform its crucial mission of war deterrence and securing war initiative any moment and under any unexpected circumstances,” state media quoted Kim as saying.
Kim Dong-yub, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies and former South Korean navy commander, said North Korea’s latest exercises appeared to be “quite specific and sophisticated” compared to the spate of tests it conducted in September and October last year.
“This shows that North Korea is developing its nuclear strategy, nuclear operation doctrine, and nuclear command system,” he said.