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North Korea: Missile tests were practice for an attack on the US South

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea’s military said Monday that a recent a flurry of missile tests there were practices of “mercilessly” hitting key South Korean and American targets, such as air bases and operational control systems, with a variety of missiles that likely included nuclear weapons.

North Korea’s statement underscored leader Kim Jong-un’s determination not to back down in the face of his rivals’ drive to expand their military exercises. But some experts say Kim also used their teachings as justification modernize its nuclear arsenal and increase its influence in future dealings with Washington and Seoul.

Last week, North Korea fired dozens of missiles and sent warplanes toward the sea – triggering evacuation alerts in some parts of South Korea and Japan — in protest against massive US-South Korean Air Force exercises, which the North views as a rehearsal for an invasion.

US and South Korean officials responded that they would continue to expand their joint training activities and warned the North that the use of nuclear weapons would lead to the end of the Kim regime.

“The recent relevant military operations of the Korean People’s Army are a clear response (of North Korea) that the more persistently the enemy’s provocative military actions continue, the more thoroughly and mercilessly the KPA will oppose them,” the North Korean General Staff said in a statement. said a military statement carried by state media.

It said the weapons tests involved ballistic missiles loaded with dispersion warheads and underground penetration warheads designed to strike enemy air bases; surface-to-air missiles designed to “destroy” enemy aircraft at various heights and distances; and strategic cruise missiles that fell in international waters about 80 kilometers (50 miles) off the South Korean coastal city of Ulsan in the southeast.

The North’s armed forces said they also conducted an important test of a ballistic missile with a special functional warhead that is supposed to “paralyze the enemy’s operation control system.” That could mean simulating electromagnetic pulse attacks, but some observers question whether North Korea has mastered the key technologies to produce such an attack capability.

The North’s military statement did not directly mention Thursday’s launch intercontinental ballistic missile aimed at striking the continental US, although its main newspaper published a photo of a weapon similar to an ICBM like the one used in last week’s test.

Some experts say many of the other North Korean missiles launched last week were short-range nuclear weapons that put key military targets in South Korea, including US military bases there, within striking range.

Later on Monday, South Korea’s armed forces disputed some of North Korea’s reports of its missile tests. Spokesman Kim Jong-rak said South Korea had not detected the launch of North Korea’s cruise missiles and that it was also notable that North Korea did not mention what Seoul described as an abnormal ICBM flight.

This year’s U.S.-South Korean Air Force exercise “Watchful Storm” was the largest in the history of the annual fall exercise. 240 combat aircraft took part in the exercise, including advanced F-35 fighters of both countries. The allies were originally scheduled to hold the exercise over five days ending Friday, but extended the exercise by another day in response to the North’s missile tests.

The United States flew two B-1B supersonic bombers over South Korea on Saturday, the last day of an air force exercise, to demonstrate its power against North Korea, the first such flight since December 2017.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the B-1B’s participation in the joint exercise demonstrates the allies’ readiness to respond firmly to North Korean provocations and the US commitment to defend its ally with the full spectrum of military capabilities, including nuclear.

After their annual meeting in Washington on Thursday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup issued a joint statement strongly condemning the North’s recent launches and warning Austin that any nuclear attack against the US or its allies and partners would “is unacceptable and will lead to the end of the Kim regime.” South Korea’s armed forces have previously warned North Korea that using its nuclear weapons would lead it to a “path of self-destruction.”

Both defense chiefs also agreed on the need to increase joint exercises and training to strengthen readiness against North Korean nuclear and missile threats.

Even before the “Watchful Storm” exercises, North Korea conducted a test launch of a number of missiles, which were called simulation of nuclear attacks at US and South Korean facilities to protest other sets of military exercises by the rivals, which involved US aircraft for the first time in five years. In September, North Korea also passed a new law that allows for the preemptive use of its nuclear weapons in a wide range of situations.

South Korean and US officials are adamant that their exercises are defensive in nature and that they have no intention of invading the North.

The U.S. and South Korean militaries are expanding their regular military exercises following the May inauguration of conservative South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who has pledged to take a tougher stance on North Korean provocations. Some of the allied exercises have previously been scaled back or canceled to support stalled diplomacy over North Korea’s nuclear program or to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

For months, South Korean and US officials have said North Korea has completed preparations for its first nuclear test in five years. South Korea’s Unification Minister Kwon Young-sae told lawmakers on Monday that North Korea could conduct a nuclear test at any time, but there was no indication yet that such a test was imminent.

The North’s recent weapons tests come as it grapples with the challenges of the pandemic.

Last week, Russian officials said they had resumed train service with North Korea after more than 2 1/2 years of suspension caused by the pandemic. Russian Far Eastern Railway officials told the state-run news agency last Wednesday that the first restored train bound for North Korea was carrying 30 thoroughbred horses, while the next train was to carry medicine.

In September, North Korea resumed freight trains with China, its biggest trading partner, ending a five-month hiatus.


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