North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned adversaries on Thursday that his nuclear forces are fully prepared for “real war,” a day after the isolated country’s latest launch in a recent series of missile tests.

“Our nuclear fighting forces… once again demonstrated their full readiness for a real war to bring enemies under their control,” Kim said in a report by the state-run Korea Central News Agency (KCNA).

Kim’s fiery statement, the first on North Korea’s missile program in several months, came after he allegedly oversaw the test of long-range cruise missiles over waters west of the Korean peninsula on Wednesday, according to KCNA.

Wednesday marked the 26th cruise or ballistic missile test by the Kim regime this year, according to a CNN tally, though analysts stressed that KCNA’s reports should be treated with caution as North Korean state media they had previously exaggerated the success of such releases. .

On Monday, North Korean state media broke a six-month silence on this year’s series of missile tests, claiming they were part of a series of mock procedures intended to demonstrate Pyongyang’s readiness to fire tactical nuclear warheads at targets. potential in South Korea.

In Monday’s report, KCNA said that North Korea’s recent missile tests showed that the country’s forces were “fully ready to attack and eliminate the established objects at the planned locations in the established time.”

Kim Jun-rak, spokesman for the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed that North Korea launched two cruise missiles from the Kaechon area, South Phyongan province, from 2 a.m. local time Wednesday over the West Sea. , also known as the Yellow Sea.

“The South Korean military was aware of the situation in real time and maintained a preparedness posture by closely cooperating with the United States while strengthening surveillance and surveillance,” Kim said at a briefing on Thursday.

The US Indo-Pacific Command said it had no comment on Wednesday’s test reports.

The KCNA report claimed that the cruise missiles tested on Wednesday flew in oval and figure-8 patterns for nearly three hours over the sea before reaching their target.

Analysts stressed caution about the KCNA reports.

“It is worth remembering that the details of these reports cannot be trusted,” said Leif-Eric Easley, an associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. “The Kim regime is sometimes surprisingly transparent about weapons development goals, but it also tends to exaggerate strength and capabilities.”

But Easley and others stressed that the North Korean reports should not be dismissed as sheer bragging on the part of South Korea and the West.

Kim Dong-yub, a professor at the University of North Korea Studies in Seoul, said North Korea’s missile tests show a program in progress, even if current strengths are exaggerated.

“The fact that Kim Jong Un oversaw the launch of this missile suggests that the cruise missile is in the final stage of development,” he said.

Cruise missiles have substantial differences from ballistic missiles, which have made up the vast majority of North Korea’s tests this year.

A ballistic missile is launched using a rocket or rockets, then travels out of the Earth’s atmosphere, glides into space before re-entering, and then descends powered only by gravity to its target.

A cruise missile is powered by a jet engine, remains within the Earth’s atmosphere during its flight, and is maneuverable with aircraft-like control surfaces.

Cruise missiles have smaller payloads than ballistic missiles, so they would require a smaller nuclear warhead than a missile designed to hit the continental United States, such as an ICBM.

United Nations Security Council resolutions prohibit North Korea from testing ballistic missiles, but such a restriction does not apply to cruise missile tests.

North Korea’s ability to deploy a nuclear warhead on any type of missile is unproven.

Shin Beom-chul, South Korea’s deputy defense minister, told the local SBS radio station on Thursday morning that the series of missile tests and threatening announcements from Pyongyang show that North Korea may be preparing tests of a nuclear device for the seventh time. His last test was in 2017.

“North Korea is testing various missiles. And now they have tested cruise missiles, and I think they will test the part of the tactical nuke that can be loaded into each warhead,” Shin said.

“North Korea has not conducted a tactical nuclear test, so it needs to make the smallest nuclear warheads and verify them,” he said.

Even if it doesn’t test a nuclear weapon, North Korea’s new propaganda campaign presents a problem, said Easley, a professor at Ewha University.

“Pyongyang’s military threats are a chronic and worsening problem for peace and stability in Asia,” Easley said.

“Lawmakers in Seoul, Tokyo and Washington must not let domestic politics and other challenges, such as Russia’s war in Ukraine, prevent them from increasing international coordination on military deterrence and economic sanctions” in Pyongyang, he said.

Categorized in: