N Korea stages ‘tactical nuclear attack drill’ in warning to enemies

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Pyongyang says it carried out a simulated tactical nuclear attack drill with mock atomic warheads attached to two long-range cruise missiles.

North Korea has announced that it conducted a simulated “tactical nuclear attack” drill with two long-range missiles equipped with mock atomic warheads.

The KCNA news agency, in a report on Sunday, said the drill was carried out early on Saturday to “warn enemies” that the country would be prepared in case of nuclear war and pledged again to bolster military deterrence against South Korea and the United States.

The two cruise missiles carrying mock nuclear warheads were fired towards the West Sea off the peninsula and flew 1,500km (930 miles) at a preset altitude of 150 metres, it said.

The launches were the latest in a series of missile tests and military exercises conducted by Pyongyang in recent weeks, including a failed spy satellite launch late last month.

It came just after the joint annual summertime exercises between South Korea and the US, known as Ulchi Freedom Shield, came to a close on Thursday after an 11-day run, featuring air drills with B-1B bombers.

North Korea, which has long denounced the drills as a rehearsal for war, protested the deployment of the US strategic bombers by firing two ballistic missiles on Thursday.

The South Korean Yonhap news agency, meanwhile, quoted officials expressing scepticism over Pyongyang’s claims on Sunday of a successful nuclear strike mission.

“An analysis indicated that North Korea’s announcement this morning was exaggerated. Not all of them succeeded,” the senior official of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff told Yonhap on the condition of anonymity.

The KCNA, in a separate report on Sunday, said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited the Pukjung Machine Complex, which produces marine engines, and a major munitions factory to stress the importance of strengthening Pyongyang’s naval forces.

“He affirmed that a future plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the WPK [Worker’s Party of Korea] would set forth an important modernisation of the complex and the development direction of the shipbuilding industry,” KCNA said.

The report did not specify the date of his visit.

Kim on Tuesday also visited a training command post where he detailed future war plans, including “making simultaneous super-intense strikes” at core military posts in the South.

In August, he visited a naval fleet stationed on the east coast to oversee a test of strategic cruise missiles onboard a warship and stressed the vessel would maintain striking power for combat situations.

North Korea has been stepping up its military deterrence against Washington and Seoul and has criticised last month’s summit agreement between the two on improving military cooperation.