The North’s statement, released on the 77th birthday of its ruling Workers’ Party, is seen as an attempt to buttress a public unity behind Kim as he faces pandemic-related economic hardships, a security threat posed by the boosted US-South Korean military alliance and other difficulties.
"Through seven times of launching drills of the tactical nuclear operation units, the actual war capabilities… of the nuclear combat forces ready to hit and wipe out the set objects at any location and any time were displayed to the full," the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said.
KCNA said the missile tests were in response to recent naval drills between US and South Korean forces, which involved the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan for the first time in five years.
Viewing the drills as a military threat, North Korea decided to stage "the simulation of an actual war” to check and improve its war deterrence and send a warning to its enemies, KCNA said.
Kim Jong Un monitors a North Korean missile launch at an undisclosed location. File/AFP
North Korea considers US-South Korean military drills as an invasion rehearsal, though the allies have steadfastly said they are defensive in nature. Since the May inauguration of a conservative government in Seoul, the US and South Korean militaries have been expanding their exercises, which had been previously scaled back due to the pandemic and the now-dormant nuclear diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington.
The launches — all supervised by Kim — included a nuclear-capable ballistic missile launched under a reservoir in the northeast; other ballistic missiles designed to strike South Korean airfields, ports and command facilities; and a new-type ground-to-ground ballistic missile that flew over Japan, KCNA reported.
North Korea has previously test-launched missiles from a submarine off its east coast. But the most recent was its first public test of a weapon from under an inland reservoir.
Kim Dong-yub, a professor at Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies, said North Korea likely aims to diversify launch sites to make it difficult for its enemies to detect its missile liftoffs in advance and conduct preemptive strikes.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (centre) in white, inspects military exercises in North Korea. File/AP
KCNA said when the weapon launched from the reservoir was flying above the sea target, North Korean authorities confirmed the reliability of the explosion of the missile’s warhead, apparently a dummy one, at the set altitude.
Kim, the professor, said the missile’s estimated 600-kilometre (370-mile) flight indicated the launch could be a test of exploding a nuclear weapon above South Korea’s southeastern port city of Busan, where the Reagan previously docked. He said the missile tested appeared to be a new version of North Korea’s highly maneuverable KN-23 missile, which was modeled on Russia’s Iskander missile.
North Korea described the missile that flew over Japan as a new-type intermediate-range weapon that traveled 4,500 kilometers (2,800 miles). Some foreign experts earlier said North Korea likely tested its existing nuclear-capable Hwasong-12 missile, which can reach the US Pacific territory of Guam. But Kim, the professor, said the missile appeared to be an improved version of the Hwasong-12 with a faraway target like Alaska or Hawaii.
The renewed pressure comes as the pandemic further shakes the North’s economy, which was already battered by crippling US-led sanctions over its nuclear weapons programme and decades of mismanagement by its own government.
Western leaders warned Russia not to consider shifting a country's national borders by force, highlighting that Moscow would pay a high political and economic price for any military intervention in Ukraine.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff reported that North Korea had fired a suspected ballistic missile toward the sea off its east coast from a location near Sunan, where Pyongyang's international airport is located.
Inaugurated in 2016, it was still among the newest projects in the Gaza Strip, the housing complex in the city of Khan Yunis boasting an impressive mosque, shops and gardens.
At the end of the visit, the People of Determination Empowerment Council at Dubai Police presented Maitha Yousuf with a commemorative gift, extending their heartfelt wishes for her continued excellence and success in her academic endeavours.
Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Sheikhs and guests of the country witnessed on Sunday the “Union March”, which was organised by the Presidential Office and launched as part of the activities of the Sheikh Zayed Heritage Festival for 2023 in Al Wathba area in Abu Dhabi.
At least 26 people were injured — including a local cleric — and transferred to hospitals. Police helped reroute traffic in the area after condoning off the site, officials said. The interior minister of Gilgit-Baltistan called the incident an "act of terrorism.”