North Korean Kim orders ‘exponential’ expansion of nuclear arsenal

During the six-day meeting to determine new state goals, Kim called for “an exponential increase in the country’s nuclear arsenal” to mass-produce battlefield tactical nuclear weapons aimed at the South Korea. He also presented a task to develop a new ICBM with a “rapid nuclear counterattack” capability – a weapon he needs to strike the continental United States. He said the North’s first military reconnaissance satellite would be launched “as soon as possible”, KCNA said. .

“Kim’s comments at the party meeting sound like an ambitious but possibly achievable list of 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.

Later on Sunday, South Korea’s defense ministry reiterated a warning that any attempt by North Korea to use nuclear weapons “will bring about the end of Kim Jong Un’s government.” The US military has issued similar warnings before.

“The new year has started but our security situation is still very serious,” South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol told senior military officials during a video conference call. “Our military must resolutely punish any provocation by the enemy with the firm determination that we dare to risk a battle.”

Senior diplomats from South Korea, the United States and Japan spoke by phone and agreed that North Korea’s provocations would only deepen its international isolation and incite their trilateral security cooperation. They nevertheless reaffirmed that the door to dialogue with North Korea remains open, according to the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Since his high-stakes summit with then-President Donald Trump collapsed in 2019 due to wrangling over US sanctions, Kim Jong Un has refused to resume talks with Washington and took steps to expand its arsenal. Some observers say Kim would eventually want to make North Korea a legitimate nuclear power in order to secure the lifting of international sanctions and an end to regular U.S.-South Korean military exercises that he sees as a major security threat.

“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, which may be tested soon. He said a satellite launch could take place in April, a month that includes a key state anniversary.

Concerns about North Korea’s nuclear program have grown since the North approved a new law last year allowing the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons in a wide range of situations and openly threatening to use its nuclear weapons. first. At last week’s party meeting, Kim reiterated that threat.

Earlier on Sunday, the South Korean military detected a short-range ballistic missile launched from the northern capital region. He said the weapon traveled about 400 kilometers (250 miles) before falling in the water between the Korean peninsula and Japan. The US Indo-Pacific Command said US commitments to defending South Korea and Japan “remain ironclad”.

North Korea tested more than 70 missiles last year, including three short-range ballistic missiles detected by South Korea on Saturday. The series of tests indicate that the country is likely emboldened by the advancement of its nuclear program. Observers say the North was also able to continue its banned missile tests because China and Russia blocked the United States and others from toughening UN sanctions in the Security Council.

KCNA confirmed on Sunday that the country carried out the test firings of its super-sized multiple rocket launcher on Saturday and 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.

“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 its heavily fortified border for the first time in five years and responded by sending its own drones to the North.


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