North Korea reported that a ballistic missile launch it performed on Sunday was part of a virtual nuclear counterattack simulation on South Korea.
The announcement made by North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, the day after on March 20, was released via reporting from Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
Tensions in the region have soared to new highs as U.S. and South Korean military forces have engaged in their largest joint drills in years, as The Dallas Express reported.
Freedom Shield began on March 13 and will run until March 24 at Camp Humphreys, located approximately 40 miles south of Seoul. The live drills are meant to bolster South Korea’s defense posture, per the press release from the U.S. Forces Korea.
North Korea has responded to the military exercises with publicized warnings and several missile demonstrations.
The latest firing was of a missile outfitted with a mock nuclear warhead. It traveled for about 500 miles (800 km) and detonated successfully over its intended target, per KCNA.
South Korean and Japanese officials confirmed that they spotted the missile land off the eastern coast of North Korea, per Associate Press News.
Jeon Ha Gyu, the spokesperson of South Korea’s Defense Ministry, said that the latest test demonstrates the “considerable progress” North Korea has made in its nuclear weapons technology, per AP News.
Believed to have been modeled after Russia’s Iskander mobile ballistic system, the type of missile tested is touted as capable of penetrating South Korea’s missile defense systems by flying low and being highly maneuverable.
Kim Jong Un views the ongoing joint military exercises as a rehearsal for an invasion and accused both countries of being “undisguised in their explicit attempt to unleash a war against the DPRK in disregard of its repeated warnings,” as reported by KCNA.
He reportedly instructed his military to hold more drills to enhance the war readiness of its nuclear forces and send a “stronger warning” to the U.S. and South Korea.
KCNA reported the day after that over 1.4 million North Koreans had enlisted in the Korean People’s Army as a reaction to the “US imperialists and the south Korean puppet traitors hell-bent on reckless manoeuvres [sic].” These volunteers were said to have pledged to “deal merciless crushing blows of punishment to the enemies bringing dark clouds of a nuclear war.”
An emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council held on March 20 saw members debating the best approach as “the situation on the Korean Peninsula continues to head in the wrong direction,” as Miroslav Jenča, assistant secretary-general for Europe, Central Asia and the Americas, put it, per a press release.
Jenča went on to say that North Korea has carried out 14 launches of ballistic missiles so far in 2023, adding to over 70 firings in 2022.
“Reducing confrontational rhetoric will help to lower political tensions and create space to explore diplomatic avenues,” he noted, per the release.
Yet the ensuing debate pointed to the Security Council’s “prolonged inaction” on the subject.
“How many times must the DPRK violate its Security Council resolution obligations before China and Russia stop shielding the DPRK regime?” asked the U.S. representative, per the release.
Despite Security Council resolutions that have long banned North Korean ballistic missile activity, Russia and China, as permanent members of the council, have prevented the implementation of punishment or additional sanctions in recent years.