North Korea simulates ‘tactical nuclear strike’ on South Korea

Pyongyang says its latest launch is a response to US-South Korean military drills that included deployment of B1-B bomber.

A composite photo showing various missile launches from a site near Pyongyang. It is night time and the smoke and flames illuminate the sky
North Korea says it was simulating 'scorched earth strikes' [KCNA via Reuters]

North Korea has fired two short-range ballistic missiles in a drill simulating a “nuclear strike” on targets in South Korea, in response to ongoing joint military exercises by the United States and South Korea, state media said.

Pyongyang correctly carried out its “nuclear strike mission,” the general staff of the North Korean People’s Army (KPA) said in a statement carried by the news agency KCNA on Thursday.

“The KPA staged a tactical nuclear strike drill simulating scorched-earth strikes at major command centres and operational airfields of the ‘ROK’ military gangsters on Wednesday night,” it said, using the acronym for South Korea’s official name, the Republic of Korea.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement that the North Korean missiles were launched from a site around Pyongyang and travelled about 360 kilometres (225 miles) before landing off the peninsula’s east coast.

The JCS called the launches, which took place under cover of darkness, “a grave provocation” that threatened international peace and breached United Nations Security Council resolutions that ban any ballistic launches by North Korea. It said South Korean and US intelligence authorities were analysing the details of the launch.

“These conducts pose threats to peace and stability of not only our country, but of the region and international community, and cannot be tolerated,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visiting the army training centre. He is looking at charts laid out on a table. Two officers are briefing him.
State media said Kim Jong Un also visited a Korean People’s Army training centre [KCNA via Reuters]

Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said while the launches themselves were not unusual since North Korean often fired missiles in response to US-South Korea military exercises, it was interesting that they had taken place at night.

“This could be a precaution, to avoid being mistaken as an attack on U.S. or South Korean forces during field training,” Easley said in emailed comments. “Or the Kim regime may intend to show that it has the ability to attack at any time and from many directions. It might wish to complicate the allies’ missile tracking and analysis. Or Kim Jong-un could be suffering from insomnia and testing the readiness of subordinates at all hours of the night.”

The launch came hours after the US deployed strategic B1-B bombers as part of the large-scale Ulchi Freedom Shield exercises that take place each year and wrap up on Friday. Pyongyang claims the drills, which began on August 21, are a rehearsal for invasion.

Pyongyang has conducted a record number of weapons tests this year, as leader Kim Jong Un moves ahead with his plan to develop new weaponry and modernise the country’s military. Last week, the country tried and failed for a second time to put a military spy satellite into orbit.

KCNA reported North Korea had also been staging its own military drills – aimed at preparing the armed forces for an all-out war with South Korea – with Kim visiting a training command post earlier this week.

The drill simulated repelling a sudden invasion, then launching a counterattack to occupy “the whole territory of the southern half”, the report said.

Kim has also called for improvements to North Korea’s navy, saying the country’s waters brimmed with “the danger of a nuclear war”, state media reported. Developing the country’s naval force had become a “very urgent” issue, state media quoted him as saying.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies