North Korean Kim orders ‘exponential’ expansion of nuclear arsenal
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered the “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. State, having entered 2023 with another weapons firing following a record number of testing activities last year.
Kim’s moves are in line with the general thrust of his nuclear weapons development program, as he has repeatedly promised to increase both the quality and quantity of his arsenal to meet what he calls the American hostility. Some experts say Kim’s push to produce more nuclear weapons and new weapons systems reflects his hopes of solidifying his future bargaining power as he heads into protracted tensions with the United States and its allies. .
“They are now keen to isolate and suffocate (North Korea), unprecedented in human history,” Kim told a recently concluded ruling party meeting, according to the official Korean Central News Agency. “The prevailing situation calls for redoubled efforts to massively build up the military muscle.”
Kim accused South Korea of being “determined to accumulate reckless and dangerous armaments” and of openly trumpeting its preparations for war with North Korea. This, Kim said, highlights the need to mass-produce tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield and push for “an exponential increase in the country’s nuclear arsenal,” KCNA said.
Kim also set a task to develop another ICBM system “whose primary mission is rapid nuclear counterattack,” KCNA said. He said Kim accused the United States of frequently deploying nuclear strike assets to South Korea and pushing to establish a NATO-style regional military bloc.
Kim said North Korea would also launch its first military reconnaissance satellite “as soon as possible”, saying related preparations are in their final stages.
Tactical nuclear weapons and a military reconnaissance satellite are on Kim’s long wish list for new weapons. Other weapons he wants include a multi-warhead missile, a more nimble solid-fuel ICBM, an underwater-launched nuclear missile, and a hypersonic weapon.
“Kim’s comments at the party meeting sound like a list of ambitious — but possibly achievable — New Year’s resolutions,” said Soo Kim, security analyst at California-based RAND Corporation. “It’s ambitious in that Kim has consciously chosen to spell out what he hopes to achieve as we head into 2023, but it also suggests a dose of confidence on Kim’s part.”
Last month, North Korea claimed to have carried out key tests needed to develop a new strategic weapon, a likely reference to a solid-fuel ICBM and a spy satellite.
Kim’s identification of South Korea as an enemy and mention of the hostile policies of the United States and South Korea are “a reliable pretext for the regime to produce more missiles and weapons in order to consolidate the Kim’s negotiating position and concretize North Korea’s status as a nuclear power”. said Kim.
Some observers say North Korea wants to become a legitimate nuclear-powered state in order to secure the lifting of UN and other international sanctions and force an end to regular US-South military exercises. Koreans that the North sees as a rehearsal of an invasion.
“It was during his 2018 New Year’s address that (Kim) first ordered the mass production of warheads and ballistic missiles, and he is doubling that goal of quantitative expansion during the year to come,” said Ankit Panda, an expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Panda said the reference to a new ICBM appears to be for a solid-propellant system, saying “we should expect to see larger solid-propellant missiles being tested soon.”
Panda said the satellite launch is expected to take place in April. North Korea usually marks April 15, the birthday of Kim’s late father and state founder, Kim Il Sung, with great fanfare and state-sponsored celebrations.
External concerns about 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 its nuclear weapons first.
During his speech at the party meeting, Kim reiterated this threat.
“(Kim’s report) made it clear that our nuclear force sees it as the premier mission to deter war and safeguard peace and stability. However, if he fails to deter, he will perform the second mission, which will not be for defense,” KCNA said.
Growing nuclear threats from the North have prompted the United States and South Korea to expand military exercises and strengthen trilateral security cooperation involving Japan. The US military has warned that any nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States or its allies and partners “will bring about the end of this regime”.
Earlier on Sunday, the South Korean military detected the launch of a missile from the northern capital region. The Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the missile traveled about 400 kilometers (250 miles) before falling in the water between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff called the launch a “serious provocation” that undermines peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and around the world. He said South Korea remains ready to face any provocation by an overwhelming majority.
The US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement that US commitments to defending South Korea and Japan “remain ironclad”.
North Korea tested more than 70 missiles last year, including the three short-range ballistic missiles detected by South Korea on Saturday. The North’s testing frenzy indicates the country is likely emboldened by its advancing nuclear program, although whether the country has functioning nuclear missiles remains a source of outside debate.
North Korean state media confirmed on Sunday that the country had conducted test firings of its Super Large Multiple Rocket Launcher to test the weapon’s capability. KCNA said three shells fired from the launcher on Saturday accurately hit an island target off the country’s east coast. He said North Korea fired another round from the launcher into its eastern waters on Sunday.
Kim Jong Un said the rocket launcher puts all of South Korea within striking range and is capable of carrying a tactical nuclear warhead, according to KCNA.
Outside experts classify weapons fired from the launcher as ballistic missiles based on their trajectories, ranges and other characteristics.
“Its recent missile launches were not technically impressive. Instead, the high volume of tests at unusual times and from various locations demonstrates that North Korea could launch different types of attacks, at any time. and in many directions,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
Animosities between rival Koreas have escalated further since early last week, when South Korea accused North Korea of flying drones across the country’s heavily fortified border for the first time in five years and responded by sending its own drones north.