North Korea Drills ‘Nuclear Counterattack,’ Appears To Launch Missile From Silo


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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un oversaw drills simulating a tactical nuclear counterattack, including launching a short range ballistic missile (SRBM) that appeared to fire from an underground silo, as a warning to the U.S. and South Korea, state media said Monday.

The North fired a missile equipped with a fake nuclear warhead from a buried silo on Sunday amid U.S. and South Korean combined war drills the Kim regime accused of “being frantically scaled up” as preparation for a future invasion, according to state-run media outlet KCNA. Launching the missile from a buried silo demonstrated the North’s ability to dramatically improve the speed and reliability of future intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launches, analysts told Reuters.

“The drill also aimed to demonstrate our tougher will to make an actual war response and send a stronger warning to the enemy,” KCNA said, accusing its adversaries of blatantly conducting offensive war drills with the intent to “unleash a war” against North Korea. (RELATED: US Is Racing To Achieve Atomic Supremacy Over Its Key Foes As ‘Second Nuclear Age’ Begins, Experts Say)

The warhead traveled nearly 500 miles before exploding above “target waters,” simulating a tactical “nuclear counterattack” on an enemy, KCNA said.

Photos depicted Kim observing the launch along with his daughter, who is seen as being groomed to succeed Kim, Reuters reported.

Engine exhaust emanated from two sides of the apparent KN-23 SRBM rather than straight down, according to photos of the launch, suggesting the missile had been housed in a silo, experts told Reuters.

“With a silo, you can quickly fire a missile, almost immediately,” Yang Uk, a fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, told Reuters. “And without launch preparations being detected in advance, you can just press a button.”

A spokesperson for South Korea’s ministry of defense said the North had marked significant milestones in the development of its nuclear program, according to Reuters.

North Korea has conducted several missile tests in the past seven days amid ongoing U.S. and South Korean military drills, including exercises that involve American B-1B supersonic bombers, which are not nuclear-capable.

A view shows a missile fired by the North Korean military at an undisclosed location in this image released by North Korea's Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 20, 2023.

A view shows a missile fired by the North Korean military at an undisclosed location in this image released by North Korea’s Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 20, 2023. KCNA via REUTERS

Joint drills between the U.S. and South Korea have grown more intense in recent years as North Korea’s nuclear program continues to expand. Both countries see a need to reinforce “extended deterrence,” which relies on U.S. conventional and nuclear military capabilities to frighten adversaries away from attacking its allies, as North Korea escalates military buildup and threatens Seoul’s sovereignty, spurring the need for cooperation on nuclear issues.

Kim, however, noted North Korea’s status as a nuclear-armed state was insufficient to deter war, according to KCNA.

“It is possible to fulfill the important strategic mission of war deterrence and reliably defend the sovereignty of the country, the peaceful life and future of its people and the cause of socialist construction, only when the nuclear force is perfected,” capable of conducting a successful nuclear attack, he said, KCNA reported.

The launch came just before the United Nations Security Council is scheduled to convene an emergency session Monday to discuss North Korea’s March 16 ICBM launch, The Associated Press reported.

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