State media reported on Sunday that Kim Jong Un has called for an “exponential” increase in North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, including the development of new missiles for nuclear counterstrikes and mass production of tactical nuclear weapons.
The official KCNA reported that Kim said at the conclusion of a crucial party meeting in Pyongyang that the country must “overwhelmingly beef up the military muscle” in 2023 in response to what it called hostility from the United States and South Korea.
Kim stated that his country would concentrate on the “mass-production of tactical nuclear weapons” and the creation of “another ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) system whose main mission is quick nuclear counterstrike,” claiming that Washington and Seoul were intent on “isolating and stifling” the North.
According to the report, these objectives constitute the “main orientation” of the nuclear and defense strategy for 2023.
As the North conducted sanctions-busting weapons tests nearly every month in 2022, including the firing of its most advanced ICBM ever, military tensions on the Korean peninsula rose sharply.
According to Seoul’s military, it concluded the record-breaking year of launches with the firing of three short-range ballistic missiles early on Saturday and another rare late-night launch on Sunday at 2:50 a.m. (1750 GMT).
According to Sunday’s official KCNA report, the launches were “a test-fire of the super-large multiple rocket launchers.”
Kim stated in a separate KCNA report that the weapons placed South Korea “as a whole within the range of strike and (were) capable of carrying (a) tactical nuclear weapon.”
Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, stated that North Korea was emphasizing this “in order to warn of the possibility of actual action.”
“North Korea is indicating a tactical shift by putting pressure on South Korea, escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula, and putting pressure on the United States beginning this year,”
The launches come just a few days after five North Korean drones invaded South Korean airspace on Monday, prompting Seoul to scramble fighter jets.
The most recent statement from the North, according to Kyungnam University professor Lim Eul-chul, suggests that “they are preparing for the possibility of actual war beyond the collapse of inter-Korean relations.”
He warned that tensions between the two Koreas would reach “an unprecedented level” in 2023 if the United States and South Korea responded, as was likely to happen, by intensifying military drills further.
He continued, “If the situation is mismanaged, it would indeed be a reasonable prediction that the Korean peninsula could become a second Ukraine.”
In 2022, Kim declared the North to be an “irreversible” nuclear state and stated that he wanted his nation to have the most potent nuclear arsenal in the world.
Go Myong-hyun, a researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, stated that North Korea has previously discussed mass manufacturing nuclear weapons.
He stated to AFP, “The intention is that the United States will have no choice but to someday recognise North Korea as a nuclear state if North Korea mass produces nuclear weapons, even without aggressive provocations.”
He added, “Kim Jong Un’s message for the New Year is something like “Let’s play with nuclear weapons.” ”
At a major party meeting in Pyongyang, Kim and other senior officials laid out their policy objectives for 2023 in key areas like diplomacy, security, and the economy. These reports come at the end of the meeting.
Kim used to give a speech on January 1st, but he recently decided to break with tradition and make announcements at the annual plenary meeting.
According to KCNA, North Korea also intends to launch its first military satellite “at the earliest date possible.” South Korea is also pursuing this objective, having tested a solid-fuel space launch vehicle on Friday with success.
Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, stated, “North Korea ended the year with a bang but its recent missile launches were not technically impressive.”
However, “provocations, including drone incursions, appear excessive for deterrence and may be intended to scare South Korea into taking a softer policy,” according to the statement.
He stated that given Kim’s disdain for diplomacy and his threat to mass produce nuclear weapons, it is likely that South Korea will increase its own defense readiness and capabilities.
“In 2023, China will have to do more to restrain Pyongyang if it doesn’t want the regional instability of an inter-Korean arms race on its doorstep.”