North Korea threatens global security with expansion of nuclear arsenal
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for an “exponential” increase in the production of nuclear warheads and ordered the development of a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in response to perceived threats from the United States and South Korea. Kim’s statements were released on state media on Sunday, hours after North Korea conducted a late-night test of a short-range ballistic missile off its east coast. During his comments at a key meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party, Kim accused Washington and Seoul of carrying out a “plot to isolate and stifle” North Korea, calling it “unparalleled in human history”, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
He said the situation called for Pyongyang to “double down our efforts to strengthen our military power overwhelmingly” and “to safeguard our sovereignty, safety and basic national interest to cope with the dangerous military moves by the US and other hostile forces that target us”, KCNA reported.
“It highlights the importance and necessity of mass producing tactical nuclear weapons and calls for an exponential increase of the country’s nuclear arsenal,” Kim said. He also ordered the manufacturing of a new type of ICBM “with a rapid nuclear counterattack capability as its basic mission”, according to KCNA.
Kim also reportedly said that North Korea plans to launch its first military spy satellite soon. The KCNA report came as South Korea’s military detected a missile launched from North Korea’s capital region around 2:50am local time on Sunday (17:50 GMT on Saturday). The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile travelled about 400km (250 miles) before falling into the water between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff called the launch “a grave provocation” that hurts peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and around the world. It said South Korea will closely monitor North Korean moves in coordination with the US and maintain readiness to deal with any provocations. The US Indo-Pacific Command also released a statement, saying that the launch highlights “the destabilising impact” of North Korea’s unlawful weapons programmes. The US reiterated its commitment to defend South Korea and Japan, stating that its promises are “ironclad”.
North Korea test-fired more than 70 missiles last year. Some experts believe that the country eventually aims to boost its weapons arsenals and increase pressure on its rivals in order to win concessions such as sanctions relief. On Saturday, North Korea fired three short-range ballistic missiles towards its eastern waters. KCNA said that the country had conducted test-firings of its “super-large” multiple rocket launcher to test the weapon’s capability. It said that three shells fired from the launcher accurately hit an island target off the country’s eastern coast, and that North Korea fired another shell from the launcher towards its eastern waters on Sunday.
Outside experts categorise weapons fired from the launcher as ballistic missiles due to their trajectories, ranges, and other characteristics. North Korea’s missile launch for a second straight day could be a response to rival South Korea’s recent rocket test related to its plan to establish space-based surveillance to better monitor North Korea. On Friday, South Korea’s military announced that it had test launched a solid-fueled rocket, a type of space launch vehicle that it plans to use to put its first spy satellite into orbit in the coming years.