North Korea says missile tests are practice for ‘tactical nuclear strikes’ on South Korea

Analyst predicts North Korea’s next move after ballistic missile launch

North Korean state media has broken its silence over the country’s recent spate of missile tests, claiming they were part of a series of simulated procedures intended to demonstrate its readiness to fire tactical nuclear warheads at potential targets in South Korea.

The Kim regime has tested ballistic missiles seven times since September 25, the latest of 25 launch events of ballistic and cruise missiles this year, according to a CNN count, raising tensions to their highest level since 2017.

Quoting leader Kim Jong Un, who oversaw the drills, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the tests, which coincided with nearby military drills between the United States, South Korea and Japan, showed Pyongyang was ready to respond to regional tensions with by involving its “huge armed forces.”

KCNA said the series of seven drills of North Korea’s “tactical nuclear operation units” showed that its “nuclear combat forces” are “fully ready to hit and wipe out the set objects at the intended places in the set time.”

Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program and professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said North Korea’s announcements Monday indicated potential progress in its missile program.

“What I find notable is that these launches are not framed as tests of the missiles themselves, but rather of the units that launch them. That suggests these systems are deployed,” Lewis said on Twitter.

What was North Korea testing?

KCNA said on September 25, North Korea workers took part in exercises within a silo under a reservoir to practice what it described as loading tactical nuclear warheads to check the swift and safe transportation of nuclear weapons.

Three days later, they simulated the loading of a tactical nuclear warhead on a missile that in the event of war that would be used in “neutralizing airports in South Korea’s operation zones.”

A North Korean missile test is shown in an image released by state media on Monday.

On October 6, North Korea practiced procedures that could initiate a tactical nuclear strike on “the enemies’ main military command facilities” and, on Sunday, enemy ports, Pyongyang’s state media said.

Among the key military installations in South Korea is the US Army’s Camp Humphreys, the largest US military installation outside of the United States with a population of more than 36,000 US servicemembers, civilian workers, contractors and family members.