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N. Korea says missile tests simulate striking South with nuclear weapons

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un oversees a missile launch at an undisclosed location in North Korea

North Korea’s recent flurry of missile tests were designed to simulate showering the South with tactical nuclear weapons as a warning after large-scale navy drills by South Korean and U.S. forces, state news agency KCNA said on Monday.

North Korea fired two ballistic missiles early on Sunday, officials in Seoul and Tokyo said, the seventh such launch since Sept. 25.

Leader Kim Jong Un guided exercises by nuclear tactical units over the past two weeks, involving ballistic missiles with mock nuclear warheads, KCNA reported, saying they were meant to deliver a strong message of war deterrence.

The tests simulated striking military command facilities, main ports, and airports in the South, KCNA added.

“The effectiveness and practical combat capability of our nuclear combat force were fully demonstrated as it stands completely ready to hit and destroy targets at any time from any location,” KCNA said.

“Even though the enemy continues to talk about dialogue and negotiations, we do not have anything to talk about nor do we feel the need to do so,” KCNA quoted Kim as saying.

“The statement they’ve released is crystal clear that this recent spate of tests was their way of signaling resolve to the United States and South Korea as they carried out military activities of their own,” said Ankit Panda of the U.S.-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The United States and South Korea held joint maritime exercises involving a U.S. aircraft carrier on Friday, a day after the South scrambled fighter jets in reaction to an apparent North Korean aerial bombing drill. read more

The navy exercises involved the U.S. carrier Ronald Reagan and its strike group. The naval forces of South Korea, Japan and the United States also conducted joint drills before that.

After the North Korea statement on Monday, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol’s office said “it is important to accurately recognize the severity of security issues in the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia to prepare properly,” an official was quoted as saying.

The U.S.-led UN forces are still technically at war with North Korea as the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty.

North Korea had only referred to one missile as having a tactical nuclear capability, but the statement clarifies that many systems, new and old, will be assigned such a role, Panda said.

If North Korea resumes nuclear testing, it could include development of smaller “tactical” warheads meant for battlefield use and designed to fit on short-range missiles such as the ones tested recently, analysts said. South Korean and U.S. officials say there are signs North Korea could soon detonate a new nuclear

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