Kim Jong-un rings in new year by ordering ‘exponential increase’ of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal

Kim Jong-un has called for an “exponential” expansion of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal as the country’s new year began with another round of weapons testing following a record number of testing activities in 2022.

Mr Kim announced the new expansion plans for the regime’s nuclear arsenal during an address at a plenary meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, state media said. “The prevailing situation calls for making redoubled efforts to overwhelmingly beef up the military muscle,” Mr Kim said at a recently ended key ruling party meeting, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

During the six-day meeting meant to determine new state objectives, Kim called for “an exponential increase of the country’s nuclear arsenal” to mass produce battlefield tactical nuclear weapons targeting South Korea. He also presented a task to develop a more powerful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with a “quick nuclear counterstrike” capability. He said the North’s first military reconnaissance satellite will be launched “at the earliest date possible”, KCNA said.

Mr Kim’s moves are in line with the broad direction of his nuclear weapons development programme, as he has repeatedly vowed to boost the quality and quantity of his arsenal to cope with what he calls US hostility.

Last month, North Korea claimed to have performed key tests needed for the development of a new strategic weapon, a likely reference to a solid-fuelled ICBM, and a spy satellite.

Mr Kim accused South Korea of being “hell-bent on imprudent and dangerous arms build-up” and openly trumpeting its preparations for war with North Korea. The leader is also said to have accused the US of frequently deploying nuclear strike means in South Korea and pushing to establish a Nato-like regional military bloc.

In the wake of the state media reports out of Pyongyang, South Korea’s Defence Ministry reiterated a warning that any attempt to use nuclear weapons by North Korea “will lead to the end of the Kim Jong Un government”. The US has previously made similar warnings.

  • “The new year started but our security situation is still very grave,” South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol told top military officers during a video conference. “Our military must resolutely punish any provocation by the enemy with a firm determination that we dare to risk fighting a battle.”

North Korea fired more than 70 missiles last year, including three short-range ballistic missiles detected by South Korea over the weekend. KCNA confirmed that the country conducted the test-firings of its super-large multiple rocket launcher on Saturday and yesterday. Kim Jong-un claimed the rocket launcher puts all of South Korea within striking distance and is capable of carrying a tactical nuclear warhead, according to KCNA.

Tensions between the rival Koreas were raised early last week when South Korea accused North Korea of flying drones across their heavily fortified border for the first time in five years. It responded by sending its own drones toward the North.

  • Independent