SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea’s military said on Monday that the barrage of recent missile tests was a practice to hit key South Korean and U.S. targets such as air bases and operational command systems “without mercy.” It said it used a variety of missiles, likely containing nuclear weapons. capable weapon.
North Korea’s announcement underscored Kim Jong-un’s determination not to back down in the face of rival pressure to expand military exercises. But some experts say Kim used their training as a pretext to modernize his nuclear arsenal and increase his influence in future deals with Washington and South Korea.
North Korea last week launched dozens of missiles, flew fighter jets into the sea and issued evacuation warnings in parts of South Korea and Japan, which North Korea sees as a rehearsal for its invasion. He protested against the large-scale U.S.-ROK Air Force drills.
U.S. and South Korean officials responded that they would step up joint exercises and warned North Korea that using nuclear weapons would spell the end of the Kim regime.
The Chief of Staff of the Korean People’s Army said, “The recent response military operation by the Korean People’s Army is a clear answer (by North Korea) that the Korean People’s Army will respond thoroughly and mercilessly to the extent that the enemy’s provocative military actions persist. It is.” The military said in a statement quoted by state media.
Weapons tests included ballistic missiles with dispersion and underground penetrating warheads to hit enemy air bases, it said. A surface-to-air missile designed to “annihilate” enemy aircraft at varying altitudes and distances. The strategic cruise missile fell into the high seas about 80 kilometers from the southeastern South Korean coastal city of Ulsan.
The North Korean military said it had also conducted a significant test of a ballistic missile with a special-function warhead tasked with “paralyzing the enemy’s operational command system.” This could mean a simulation of an electromagnetic pulse attack, but some observers doubt whether North Korea has mastered the key technology to acquire such attack capabilities.
North Korea’s military statement did not explicitly mention Thursday’s reported launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile intended to hit the U.S. mainland, but major newspapers said during testing activities last week. A photograph of an ICBM-like missile was posted as one of the weapons mobilized.
Some experts say many of the other missiles North Korea launched last week are short-range nuclear weapons that put key South Korean military targets, including US bases in South Korea, within striking range.
Later on Monday, the South Korean military disputed some North Korean explanations about the missile test. Spokesperson Kim Jun-rak said it was also notable that South Korea had not detected a North Korean cruise missile launch and that North Korea did not mention what Seoul assessed as an abnormal ICBM flight.
This year’s “Vigilant Storm” Air Force training between the United States and South Korea was the largest annual fall exercise ever. The exercise involved 240 fighter jets, including the newest F-35 fighters from both countries. The allies were originally supposed to conduct his five-day exercise through Friday, but extended the exercise by another day in response to North Korea’s missile tests.
On Saturday, the final day of air force exercises, the United States launched two B-1B supersonic bombers over South Korea to show its strength against North Korea, the aircraft’s first such flight since December 2017. flew the plane.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the B-1B’s participation in the joint exercise demonstrated its allies’ readiness to respond decisively to North Korea’s provocations and the United States’ willingness to defend them with all military forces, including nuclear weapons. He said it shows commitment.
After their annual meeting in Washington on Thursday, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-seop released a joint statement, strongly condemning North Korea’s recent launches and denouncing the United States or its allies and partners nuclear weapons. Delivered Austin’s warning about the attack. It is unacceptable and will bring about the end of the Kim regime. South Korea’s military has previously warned North Korea that using nuclear weapons would set it on a “path of self-destruction.”
The two defense secretaries also agreed on the need to intensify joint exercises and training events to improve preparedness against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.
Even before the “Vigilant Storm” drill, North Korea protested a series of other rival military exercises involving US aircraft for the first time in what it called simulated nuclear attacks on US and South Korean targets. test-launched a number of missiles. Time is five years for him. In September, North Korea also adopted a new law authorizing the first use of nuclear weapons in a wide range of situations.
South Korean and U.S. officials are adamant that the exercises are defensive in nature and that they have no intention of invading North Korea.
US and South Korean militaries have expanded regular military drills since conservative South Korean President Yoon Seok-yeol took office in May, who promised to take a tougher stance against North Korean provocations. Some of the allies’ exercises had previously been scaled back or canceled to support currently stalled diplomacy on North Korea’s nuclear program or to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
South Korean and US officials have been saying for months that North Korea is ready for its first nuclear test in five years. South Korea’s Unification Minister Kwon Yong-se told lawmakers on Monday that North Korea could conduct a nuclear test at any moment, but there were no indications that such a test explosion was imminent yet.
Associated Press reporter Kim Tong-hyun contributed to this report.