North Korea on Monday described its latest ballistic missile launch as a simulated nuclear attack on South Korea as leader Kim Jong Un called for his nuclear forces to sharpen their war readiness in the face of his rival's expanding military exercises with the United States. The report by Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency came after the South Korean and Japanese militaries on Sunday detected North Korea firing a short-range ballistic missile into waters off its eastern coast, the AP reports. The launch came less than an hour before the United States flew long-range B-1B bombers for joint training with South Korean warplanes as part of the allies’ biggest combined training in years, which the North has condemned as a rehearsal for a potential invasion.
KCNA said the missile, which flew about 500 miles, was tipped with a mock nuclear warhead and that the test reaffirmed the reliability of the weapon’s nuclear explosion control devices and warhead detonators. It said the launch was the final step of a two-day drill that also involved nuclear command and control exercises and training military units to switch more quickly into nuclear counterattack posture. Kim, who state media photos showed attended the missile launch with his daughter, instructed his military to consistently conduct such drills simulating actual war conditions to make the units “more perfectly prepared in their active posture of making an immediate and overwhelming nuclear counterattack anytime.”
Saying that his enemies are getting “ever more pronounced in their moves for aggression,” Kim urged the need to bolster his nuclear deterrent “exponentially” and laid out unspecified “strategic tasks” for further developing his nuclear forces and improving their war readiness, KCNA said. This indicated that the North could up the ante in its weapons demonstrations in coming weeks or months. Sunday’s short-range launch was the North’s fifth missile event this month and the third since the US and South Korean militaries began joint exercises on March 13. The drills, which are to continue through Thursday, include computer simulations and field exercises that are the biggest of their kind since 2018. Pyongyang's latest intercontinental ballistic missile test last Thursday came hours before a historic South Korea-Japan summit.
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