SEOUL—North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for the development of new intercontinental ballistic missiles and a larger nuclear arsenal, state media said Sunday.
At a meeting of the ruling Labor Party, Kim stressed the need to ensure “overwhelming military power”.
The meeting came amid cross-border tensions over last week’s incursion into the south by North Korean drones and a series of North Korean missile launches, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol called for “solid mental preparation and practical training” to ensure that any North Korean provocations would retaliate in a phone call with military officials.
Kim Jong-un accused the United States and South Korea of trying to “isolate and stifle” Pyongyang with U.S. nuclear strike assets constantly deployed in South Korea, which he said was “unprecedented in human history.”
According to the state-run KCNA news agency, he vowed to develop another ICBM system whose “primary mission is rapid nuclear counterattack” under a plan to boost the country’s nuclear arsenal.
“The current situation calls for a redoubled effort to overwhelmingly strengthen our military capabilities … in response to feared military actions by the United States and other adversaries,” he said.
“It emphasizes the importance and necessity of mass production of tactical nuclear weapons and calls for an exponential increase in the nation’s nuclear arsenal,” Kim said, adding that these are the 2023 nuclear and defense strategy’s goals. He added that it would be a “major direction.”
As part of the plan, the administration will also launch its first military satellite “as soon as possible” by accelerating the drive to build a spy satellite in final stage preparations, KCNA said.
“Super Large Rocket Launcher”
The report came hours after North Korea launched a short-range ballistic missile off the east coast.
The isolated country also launched three ballistic missiles on Saturday, capping a year marked by a record number of missile tests.
In a separate communication, KCNA said it was testing a new 600 mm super-large rocket launcher capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
Kim praised the defense industry for delivering 30 units of the system, calling it a “core offensive weapon” capable of range across South Korea, surprise and precision fire.
Inter-Korean relations have long been rocky, but tensions have risen even further since Yoon took office in May and promised a tougher line with North Korea.
A recent drone incursion has rekindled criticism of South Korea’s air defenses, prompting Yoon again on Sunday to urge the military to prepare for retaliation.
“Our army must be determined to fight and resolutely retaliate against any provocations by the enemy,” Yoon told military officials.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the latest missile flew about 400 kilometers (249 miles) after being launched from the Yongseong district of the capital Pyongyang at around 2:50 a.m. local time (1750 GMT). .
The JCS strongly condemned North Korea’s series of missile tests as a “serious provocation” and called for an immediate halt.
The Japanese coast guard said the missile reached an altitude of about 100 kilometers and flew about 350 kilometers. Defense Minister Hamada said the Japanese government had lodged a protest with North Korea through diplomatic channels in Beijing.
U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said the launch did not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory, but emphasized the destabilizing impact of North Korea’s weapons program.
North Korea has advanced its weapons program amid speculation it could launch an unprecedented number of missiles in 2022 and conduct its seventh nuclear test.
In November, North Korea resumed testing ICBMs for the first time since 2017, successfully launching a massive new Hwasong-17 that could strike anywhere in the United States.