Kim Jong Un observes weapons test to boost nuclear capabilities

SEOUL, April 17 (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un observed the test-firing of a new type of tactical guided weapon aimed at boosting the country’s nuclear capabilities, the news agency reported on Sunday. North Korean state KCNA.

The report comes as North Korea may soon resume nuclear testing according to South Korean and US officials and after Kim broke a self-imposed moratorium on intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) testing with a launch last month. .

South Korea’s military said on Sunday it detected two projectiles launched from the North East Coast towards the sea on Saturday. The projectiles traveled about 110 kilometers (68 miles) with an apogee of 25 kilometers and a maximum speed below Mach 4 , indicating that they were short-range missiles.

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The KCNA report gave no details of the launch but linked it to nuclear targets in the North.

“The new type of tactical guided weapons system (…) is of great significance for greatly improving the firepower of front-line long-range artillery units and improving the efficiency of nuclear weapon operation tactics,” KCNA said.

“[Kim] gave important instructions on the further strengthening of the defense capabilities and nuclear combat forces of the country,” he said.

North Korea has developed short-range ballistic missiles that analysts say are designed to evade missile defenses and strike targets in the South in the event of war.

On April 5, Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of leader Kim, said North Korea opposes war but would use nuclear weapons to strike South Korea if attacked, in a warning aimed at the new conservative president of the South, Yoon Suk-yeol.

A spokesman for Yoon, Bae Hyun-jin, said there was nothing new or surprising about the North’s “show of force” as a new administration takes over.

Current South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who will leave office on May 10, received real-time information about the North’s missile launch, his office said.

RESTORATION OF THE NUCLEAR TEST SITE

Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the US-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the weapon appears to be the North’s first tactical nuclear weapons delivery system, while pointing to indications of work to restore the site. Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea.

“You don’t have to be particularly imaginative to put these two and two together,” Panda said.

US and South Korean officials have noted activity at the Punggye-ri site that may be preparations for a test, although the timing and nature of this are unclear. Read more

As early as 2017, the US Defense Intelligence Agency assessed that North Korea was capable of miniaturizing nuclear weapons across its entire missile spectrum, from short-range ballistic missiles to ICBMs.

Kim Jong Un said in January 2021 that the country was capable of “miniaturizing, lightening and standardizing nuclear weapons and turning them into tactical weapons”. He also outlined development goals for other weapons such as hypersonic missiles and spy satellites, which have been tested this year.

Duyeon Kim, a North Korea expert at the US-based Center for a New American Security, said the moment could be seen as a protest against planned joint military exercises between the US and South Korea. .

On Saturday, the US 2nd Infantry Division, based in South Korea, shared photos of troops testing a multiple rocket launcher system, although the timing of the event was not stated.

A spokesman for the US Department of Defense acknowledged the latest missile test on Sunday. “We are aware of the North Korean statement that they conducted a test of a long-range artillery system,” Lt. Col. Marty Meiners said.

US nuclear envoy Sung Kim will travel to Seoul on Monday to discuss a response to the North’s recent missile launches with his South Korean counterparts. Read more

Kim said the United States was open to talks without preconditions, but Pyongyang pushed back on those overtures, accusing Washington of hostile policies highlighted by sanctions and military drills.

On Friday, North Korea celebrated the 110th anniversary of the birth of state founder Kim Il Sung. Read more

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Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi and Josh Smith; Additional reporting by Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by Jack Kim and Edmund Klamann

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