North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised a live-fire artillery drill simulating an attack on a South Korean airfield and called for his troops to be ready to respond to the enemies’ “frantic war preparation moves” — apparently referring to the recent series of military drills between the United States and South Korea.
The North Korean state media report Friday came a day after South Korea’s military detected the North firing at least one short-range ballistic missile toward the sea from a site near the western coastal city of Nampo. The South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff was assessing whether more missiles may have been launched simultaneously.
The United States has recently sent long-range B-1B and B-52 bombers for several rounds of joint aerial drills with South Korean warplanes. The allies are also preparing this month for their biggest combined field training exercise in years to counter the growing threat of Kim’s growing nuclear arsenal. North Korea views regular US-South Korean military exercises as invasion rehearsals.
Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency said Kim urged his troops to be prepared to “overwhelmingly respond to and contain” the military action of the North’s enemies, which he said were proceeding with “all sorts of more frantic war preparation moves.”
He said frontline units should sharpen their capabilities to carry out their two main “strategic missions, that is, first to deter war and second to take the initiative in the war.”
South Korea’s Unification Ministry later Friday 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 must focus instead on caring for people’s livelihoods and take a path toward 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 newer short-range weapons targeting South Korea include large-sized multiple rocket launchers that experts say blur the boundaries between artillery and ballistic missile systems.
North Korea describes some of its more advanced short-range systems as tactical weapons, which implies an intent to arm them with lower-yield battlefield nuclear weapons.
Kim’s comments were in line with an escalatory nuclear doctrine the North set into law last year, which authorises preemptive nuclear strikes in situations where it may perceive its leadership as under threat, including conventional clashes.
Kim’s campaign is aimed at forcing the United States into accepting the North as a nuclear power and negotiating badly needed economic concessions from a position of strength, analysts say. Diplomacy between the US and North Korea has stalled since 2019.