North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged further shows of his nuclear capabilities to deter the US, after two weeks of military drills in which he claimed to launch a new ballistic missile and demonstrate tactical atomic strikes.
Kim described a series of exercises since Sept. 25, which included the first missile fired over Japan in five years, as a “severe warning” to the US and its allies, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said Monday. The drills included simulated nuclear strikes on airports in South Korea and rocket attacks on seaports, the report said, describing the moves as responses to US-led naval exercises.
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The weapon that was fired over Japan into the Western Pacific on Oct. 4 was a “new-type ground-to-ground intermediate-range ballistic missile,” KCNA said.
The advances couldn’t immediately be verified, and North Korea hasn’t clearly demonstrated the technology needed to arm and deploy tactical nuclear weapons. The US and South Korea have warned that Kim could be preparing for his first nuclear test since 2017, something that would be necessary to prove that capability.
The report shed light on Kim’s activities during an unusual monthlong absence from state media, which prompted speculation about health and whereabouts. The publication came on a day that North Korea celebrates the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, an event that is often marked with displays of military might.
The US, South Korea and Japan have stepped up military drills in the region in response to Kim’s continued nuclear moves, including passing a law last month that expanded the circumstances under which the regime could use atomic weapons. Kim has so far refused US President Joe Biden’s overtures to resume nuclear talks stalled for more than three years.
The report Monday reaffirmed Kim’s opposition to negotiations, blaming allied military threats. “With an even more powerful and resolute will and action, we should send an even clearer signal to the enemies who are escalating the tensions in the region by endlessly involving huge armed forces,” Kim said.