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North Korean leader calls for “exponential” increase in nuclear warheads

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sunday called for a “massive increase” in the number of nuclear warheads for his country and the development of a more powerful intercontinental ballistic missile, state media reported, as the East Asian country test-fired a seaward ballistic missile to the east of the country. The Korean Peninsula in the early hours of the new year, continuing a trend that saw a record number of testing activities in 2022.

Kim’s moves are in line with the broader direction of his nuclear programme. He has repeatedly vowed to boost the quality and quantity of his arsenal to counter what he calls “American hostility.” Some experts say that Kim’s attempt to produce more nuclear and other weapons indicates his intent to continue weapons testing and eventually build up his future negotiating power and win greater foreign concessions.

“They are now eager to isolate (North Korea) and strangle it in a way unprecedented in human history. The prevailing situation calls for redoubling efforts to greatly strengthen military power,” Kim told a recently concluded major meeting of the ruling party. According to the official Korean Central News Agency.

During the six-day meeting aimed at defining goals for the new state, Kim called for a “massive increase in the country’s nuclear arsenal” to produce battlefield tactical nuclear weapons aimed at South Korea. He also presented a mission to develop a new intercontinental ballistic missile mission with a “quick nuclear counter-strike” capability—a weapon with which he would like to strike the mainland United States. The agency said the first northern military reconnaissance satellite would be launched “as soon as possible”.

“Kim’s comments from the party meeting sound like a list of ambitious — but perhaps achievable — resolutions for the new year. It’s ambitious that Kim has consciously chosen to articulate what he hopes to achieve as we head into 2023, but it also indicates a dose of confidence on Kim’s part,” he said. Sue Kim, a California-based security analyst at the RAND Corporation.

Last month, North Korea claimed to have conducted the major tests needed to develop a new strategic weapon, a possible reference to a solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile and spy satellite.

“Kim’s identification of South Korea as an enemy and mention of the hostile policies of the United States and South Korea is a credible excuse for the regime to produce more missiles and weapons to solidify Kim’s negotiating position and solidify North Korea’s status as a nuclear power,” Sue Kim said. He said.

Later on Sunday, South Korea’s Defense Ministry reiterated its warning that any attempt to use nuclear weapons by North Korea “will lead to the end of Kim Jong Un’s regime.” The US military has issued similar warnings.

South Korean President Yoon Sok-yol told senior military officers, “The new year has begun, but our security situation is still very serious. Our military must resolutely punish any provocation by the enemy with a firm resolve to risk a fight.” Video conference.

Senior diplomats from South Korea, the United States and Japan spoke on the phone and agreed that North Korea’s provocations would only deepen its international isolation and advance its trilateral security cooperation. The South Korean Foreign Ministry said they are still reaffirming that the door to dialogue with North Korea is still open.

Since his high-stakes summit with then-President Donald Trump in 2019 collapsed over a row over US-led sanctions, Kim Jong Un has refused to return to talks with Washington and has taken steps to bolster his arsenal. Some observers say Kim will eventually want to make North Korea a legitimate nuclear power to win the lifting of international sanctions and end regular military exercises between the United States and South Korea, which he views as major security threats.

said Ankit Panda, an expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Panda said that the reference to a new ICBM appears to be related to the solid propulsion system, which could be tested soon. He said a satellite launch could take place in April, the month that includes the anniversary of the founding of the main state.

Concerns about North Korea’s nuclear program have grown since North Korea last year approved a new law authorizing preventive use of nuclear weapons in a wide range of situations and publicly threatening to use its nuclear weapons first. During a party meeting last week, Kim repeated that threat.

Earlier on Sunday, the South Korean military detected a short-range ballistic missile fired from the North’s capital region. It added that the weapon traveled 400 kilometers (250 miles) before landing in the waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan. The US Indo-Pacific Command said US commitments to the defense of South Korea and Japan “remain firm.”

North Korea test-fired more than 70 missiles last year, including three short-range ballistic missiles discovered by South Korea on Saturday. The testing flurry indicates that the country was likely encouraged by its advanced nuclear program. Observers say North Korea 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.

The KCNA confirmed on Sunday that the country conducted test launches of a very large multiple rocket launcher on Saturday and Sunday. Kim Jong Un said the missile launcher puts all of South Korea within striking distance and can carry a tactical nuclear warhead, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

“Recent missile launches have not been technically impressive,” said Leif Eric Easley, a university professor. “Instead, the high volume of tests at unusual times and from different locations shows that North Korea can launch different types of attacks anywhere.” time and in many directions. at Ewha University in Seoul.

Hostilities between the two rival Koreas have intensified 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 retaliated by sending its own drones toward the North.

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