The North Korean leader has tested new tactical nuclear warheads, calling his weapons program defensive.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has called for increased production of nuclear materials to exponentially expand the country’s arsenal. He stated that his weapons program was aimed at protecting the country.
On Tuesday, Kim Jong-un inspected new tactical nuclear warheads called Hwasan-31s for the first time. About 10 nuclear warheads were shown along with short-range ballistic missiles and long-range cruise missiles, writes The Wall Street Journal.
The North Korean leader also got acquainted with the plans for a nuclear counterattack and was informed about the nuclear weapons control system called Haekbangashoe, which means “nuclear trigger”.
“Only when we perfectly prepare the ability to use nuclear weapons at any time and from anywhere, we will ensure that we will never have to use nuclear weapons,” said Kim Jong-un.
He called on his nuclear scientists to increase the production of weapons-grade fissile material used to make nuclear bombs. According to documentation released last year by the South Korean Ministry of Defense, North Korea increased its plutonium stockpile to 154 pounds in 2022 (approximately 69.85 kg – UNIAN), adding 44 pounds from 2020 (approximately 19.95 kg – UNIAN) .
The nuclear warheads North Korea showed on Tuesday could be mockups showing the regime plans to develop warheads that can be mounted on a variety of missiles, said Yang Wook, a military expert at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul. He noted that it is too early to determine what the capabilities of the warheads might be.
North Korea has successfully tested short-range and long-range missiles and various launch platforms, including submarines and trains. “Warheads are the latest step in proving the ability to deploy missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons,” said Yang Wook. He added that earlier, after demonstrating nuclear warheads, North Korea conducted a nuclear test to assess the explosive power of its weapons.
Weapons testing by North Korea
US and South Korean officials have said since last year that North Korea is ready to conduct another nuclear test. In recent weeks, Pyongyang has stepped up weapons testing in response to military exercises by the US and its allies. In particular, North Korea launched short-range ballistic missiles and showed off a new underwater drone it claims can carry a nuclear weapon.
According to a North Korean media report, the two short-range missiles fired on Monday were part of a training exercise that simulated tactical nuclear attacks. The tests used mock-ups of nuclear warheads that exploded in the air.
North Korea said last week that its underwater drone also detonated a mock warhead, threatening to create a “radioactive tsunami.” The South Korean military said on Monday that the underwater drone is still in the early stages of development and that Pyongyang is exaggerating its capabilities.
The US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz arrived at South Korea’s port of Busan on Tuesday in a show of force against North Korea. Washington and Seoul are holding a joint amphibious landing exercise through April 3. In a comment released on Tuesday, North Korea again condemned the joint military exercise, accusing the US of destroying peace and stability in the region.
North Korea is focusing on rallying domestic support for its nuclear and missile program, with state media reporting hundreds of thousands of North Koreans enlisting in the military and justifying the arms buildup as a defense against U.S. and South Korean forces, said Lee Ho Ryun, a North Korean military researcher. from the Korea Institute for Defense Analysis in Seoul.
“National support for his nuclear and missile program is helping Kim shift his focus away from economic problems and food shortages,” Lee said.