North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered an “exponential” expansion of his country’s nuclear arsenal, the development of a more powerful intercontinental ballistic missile and the launch of its first spy satellite, state media reported on Sunday. -after entering the year with another shooting. record number of test events last year.
Kim’s actions are in line with the broad thrust of his nuclear weapons development program, as he has repeatedly vowed to increase the quality and quantity of his arsenal to counter what he calls US hostility. Some experts say Kim’s push to develop more nuclear weapons and new weapons systems reflects his hope to bolster future negotiating power amid lingering tensions with the United States and its allies.
“They are now seeking to isolate and suffocate (North Korea) unprecedented in human history,” Kim said at a recently concluded ruling party meeting, according to the Korean Central News Agency. “The current situation calls for redoubled efforts to strengthen military muscle.”
Kim has accused South Korea of being “hell of unnecessary and dangerous weapons proliferation” and openly talking about preparations for war with North Korea. This, Kim said, underscores the need to mass produce combat tactical nuclear weapons and “exponentially increase the country’s nuclear arsenal,” KCNA said.
Kim also tasked with developing another ICBM system “whose primary mission is rapid nuclear counterattack,” KCNA said. It said Kim accused the United States of frequently deploying nuclear weapons in South Korea and pushing for a NATO-like regional military bloc.
Kim said North Korea would also launch its first military intelligence satellite “at the earliest possible date,” adding that related preparations were in the final stages.
Tactical nuclear weapons and a military intelligence satellite are among Kim’s long dream list of new weapons. Other weapons it wants include a multiple-launch missile, a solid-fuel ICBM, a submarine-launched nuclear missile and a hypersonic weapon.
“Kim’s comments at the party meeting are like a list of New Year’s resolutions, but probably doable,” said Su Kim, a security analyst at the RAND Corporation in California. “It’s ambitious that Kim has chosen to be conscious of what he wants to achieve as we head into 2023, but it also shows a dose of confidence on Kim’s part.”
Last month, North Korea claimed to have conducted key tests needed to build a new strategic weapon, a solid-fuel ICBM, and a spy satellite.
Kim’s reference to South Korea as an enemy and the hostile policies of the US and South Korea are “a convincing excuse for the regime to build more missiles and weapons to strengthen Kim’s negotiating position and clarify North Korea’s status as a nuclear-armed state,” Su said. said Kim.
Some observers say North Korea wants to become a legitimate nuclear power in order to win the lifting of UN and other international sanctions and stop US-South Korean military exercises, which North Korea sees as a rehearsal for an invasion.
“During his 2018 New Year’s address, (Kim) ordered the mass production of warheads and ballistic missiles for the first time, and he doubled down on his quantitative expansion target next year,” said Ankit Panda, an expert at the Carnegie Endowment. International peace.
Panda said the reference to the new ICBM was a solid-propellant system, saying, “We should expect to see larger, solid-propellant missiles being tested soon.”
Panda said the satellite launch should take place in April. North Korea usually celebrates the birthday of Kim’s late father and state founder Kim Il-sung on April 15 with great fanfare and state-sponsored festivities.
External concerns over North Korea’s nuclear program have grown since the North approved a new law last year authorizing the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons in a wide range of situations and openly threatening to use nuclear weapons in the first place.
Kim reiterated this threat during his speech at the party meeting.
“(Kim’s report) made it clear that our nuclear power sees it as the first mission to stop war and maintain peace and stability. However, if it cannot be deterred, it will carry out a second non-defensive mission,” KCNA said.
The North’s growing nuclear threats have prompted the United States and South Korea to expand military exercises and strengthen trilateral security cooperation with Japan. The US military warned that any nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States or its allies and partners would “result in the end of this regime”.
On Sunday morning, the South Korean military confirmed that a missile had been fired from the territory of the DPRK capital. The missile traveled about 400 kilometers (250 miles) before landing in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff called the launch a “serious provocation” that undermines peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and around the world. It says that South Korea is ready to fight against any provocation.
The US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement that US commitments to defend South Korea and Japan are “iron-clad”.
North Korea has tested more than 70 missiles last year, including three On Saturday, South Korea launched short-range ballistic missiles. The North’s test frenzy shows it is emboldened by the country’s advanced nuclear program, but whether the country has nuclear missiles remains a source of external debate.
North Korea’s state media confirmed on Sunday that the country had test-fired its massive multiple launch vehicle to test its weapons capability. According to KCNA, three projectiles fired from the missile on Saturday hit an island target off the country’s eastern coast. It said North Korea fired another missile toward its eastern waters on Sunday.
According to Kim Jong-un, the missile launcher will put all of South Korea within striking distance and is capable of carrying a tactical nuclear warhead, KCNA reported.
Foreign experts classify weapons launched from a launcher as ballistic missiles according to their trajectories, distances and other characteristics.
“His recent launches were technically unimpressive. “Instead, the number of tests conducted at unusual times and from different places shows that North Korea can launch different attacks at any time and from different directions,” said Leif-Erik Asli, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
Hostilities between the rival Koreas have deepened since South Korea accused North Korea earlier last week. flying drones crossed the countries’ heavily fortified border for the first time in five years and responded by sending its own drones north.