BEIJING – North Korea said Wednesday that leader Kim Jong Un has recently supervised ballistic missile tests on the assumption of making pre-emptive strikes against South Korea.
North Korea’s official media reports did not say when the tests took place, but they were most likely referring to the country’s test-firing Tuesday of three ballistic missiles — two short-range Scuds and one medium-range Rodong.
“The drill was conducted by limiting the firing range under the simulated conditions of making pre-emptive strikes at ports and airfields in the operational theater in (South) Korea where the U.S. imperialists nuclear war hardware is to be hurled,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency said.
Kim voiced “great satisfaction over the successful drill,” and ordered military officers to ensure speed and security of North Korea’s operations of nuclear attacks and develop various ballistic missiles, according to the news agency.
In defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, North Korea fired ballistic missiles Tuesday morning, with two of them flying 500-600 km before falling into the Sea of Japan, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The Rodong has an estimated range of up to 1,300 km, making it capable of reaching as far as Japan, and North Korea’s explanation of “limiting the firing range” was apparently referring to the test of the medium-range missile.
KCNA said the drill was carried out by the Hwasong artillery units of the North Korean army’s Strategic Force, which is in charge of striking U.S. military bases in South Korea.
The missile launches came after South Korea and the United States announced about two weeks ago their decision to set up a new missile defense system — the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system — in South Korea to counter North Korea’s threats.
North Korea’s military had warned it would take “physical counteraction” from the moment the system’s location of the deployment has been confirmed.
Last week, South Korea said the THAAD system, designed to intercept ballistic missiles flying at high altitudes inside and outside the atmosphere, will be deployed in Seongju County, North Gyeongsang Province.