Kim Jong Un vows to ‘exponentially’ increase production of nuclear warheads | North KoreaThank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
Kim Jong Un has vowed to increase production of nuclear warheads and build a more powerful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), while labeling South Korea as his country’s “undisputed enemy,” North Korean state media said on Sunday.
In a sign of deepening hostility to the US, South Korea and Japan, Kim called for an “exponential increase” in the regime’s nuclear arsenal during an address to a plenary session of the ruling Workers’ Party that ended on Saturday.
The leader’s statement was released hours later North Korea fired a ballistic missile into its eastern waters starting 2023 as it ended the previous year when it conducted a record number of weapons tests.
It also fired three ballistic missiles on Saturday, days after sending five drones across the heavily armed border that divides the peninsula since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice but no peace treaty.
“The current situation requires our country to redouble its efforts to significantly strengthen our military power to protect our sovereignty, security and core national interest, to counter the dangerous military actions of the US and other hostile powers that are targeting to us,” Kim said, according to the official KCNA news agency.
Kim, who used recent year-end party meetings to outline key policies, accused Washington and Seoul of carrying out a “conspiracy to isolate and suffocate” Pyongyang, calling it “unparalleled in human history.”
South Korea, he said, had become “our undoubted enemy,” describing it as “fiendishly bent on an unreasonable and dangerous buildup of arms.”
The North launched more than 70 ballistic missiles in 2022 after a 2019 breakdown in nuclear diplomacy that ended with three meetings between Kim and then-US President Donald Trump, as well as summits with then-South Korean leader Moon Jae-in.
In November, it resumed intercontinental ballistic missile testing for the first time since 2017, successfully firing the Hwasong-17, a new, larger missile potentially capable of hitting anywhere in the US.
North Korea’s rapid weapons development improves its deterrence capability and, some experts say, puts it in a stronger position to win sanctions relief and other concessions from the United States in possible future negotiations.
In an alarming escalation last year, he approved a new law authorizing the preemptive use of nuclear weapons — a change Kim hinted at over the weekend. “Our nuclear forces regard it as the first mission to deter war and protect peace and stability, and if they fail to deter, they will carry out the second mission, which will not be for defense,” he said, according to KCNA.
The news agency said Kim also ordered the development of a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile with rapid counter-strike capability, adding that the country’s first military spy satellite would be put into orbit as soon as possible. The regime already possesses long-range missiles theoretically capable of hitting the US mainland, but there is disagreement over whether it has fully operational nuclear weapons.
Ankit Panda, an expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the mention of a new intercontinental ballistic missile appeared to refer to a solid-fueled system that could be launched faster than a liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile. “We should expect to see testing of larger solid-propellant rockets soon,” Panda said.
The South’s military detected the launch on Sunday from the Pyongyang area around 2:50 a.m., the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. The missile traveled about 400 km (250 miles) before landing in the water between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff called the launch a “serious provocation” that harms peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and around the world. It said South Korea is closely monitoring North Korea’s actions in coordination with the US and remains ready to deal with any provocations.
The US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement that the launch underscored the “destabilizing impact” of North Korea’s illicit weapons programs. It said US commitments to defend South Korea and Japan “remain ironclad”.
On Saturday, North Korea fired three short-range ballistic missiles to its eastern waters.
North Korea’s state media confirmed on Sunday that the country had conducted test firings of its super-large grenade launcher to test the weapon’s capabilities. KCNA said three projectiles fired from the launcher on Saturday hit a target on an island off the east coast. It said North Korea fired another projectile from the missile toward its eastern waters on Sunday.
Outside experts categorize the weapons fired from the missile as ballistic missiles due to their trajectories, range and other characteristics.
North Korea’s missile launch for the second day in a row may be a response to South Korea’s recent missile test, which is linked to its plan to establish space surveillance to better monitor North Korea. South Korea’s military said on Friday it had test-fired a solid-fuel rocket, a type of space launch vehicle it plans to use to launch its first spy satellite into orbit in the coming years.
Hostilities between the rival Koreas have deepened since early last week when South Korea accused North Korea of operating drones across the countries’ heavily fortified border for the first time in five years and sent its own drones north.
South Korea admitted it had not been able to shoot down any of the North Korean drones it said were detected south of the border. But South Korea has vowed to strengthen its air defense network and be tough on future provocations by North Korea.
With the Associated Press and Reuters
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