North Korea Says Missile Tests Were Practice for ‘Mercilessly’ Striking U.S. and South Korean Targets

FILE - This photo distributed by the North Korean government shows what it says is a test-
Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File

The General Staff of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), the military of the communist regime in North Korea, said on Monday that last week’s provocative and illegal missile launches were a dry run for “mercilessly” attacking American and South Korean targets, unless Washington and Seoul halt joint military exercises.

“The recent corresponding military operations by the Korean People’s Army are a clear answer [by North Korea] that the more persistently the enemies’ provocative military moves continue, the more thoroughly and mercilessly the KPA will counter them,” the North Korean General Staff said through state media.

“The KPA General Staff once again clarifies that it will continue to correspond with all the anti-[North Korea] war drills of the enemy with the sustained, resolute and overwhelming practical military measures,” the statement concluded.

The United States and South Korea conducted a large-scale joint aerial exercise called Vigilant Storm last week. After North Korea launched swarms of missiles and threatened further escalation unless the exercise was halted immediately, Vigilant Storm was extended by an extra day in defiance of Pyongyang’s demands. 

The joint drills concluded on Saturday with a flight of U.S. B-1B stealth bombers launched from Guam, escorted by four American F-16s and four South Korean F-35A fighters. The B-1B looms large in North Korean propaganda as a menacing “nuclear strategic bomber,” even though B-1Bs have not carried nuclear weapons for 30 years.

North Korea responded by launching four more ballistic missiles from sites unusually close to the Chinese border. KPA Marshal Pak Jong-chon declared the U.S. and South Korea made “an irreversible, enormous mistake” by adding an extra day to the exercise.

KPA officials told state media that one of the missiles launched last week carried a “special warhead” that was capable of “paralyzing the operation command system of the enemy.” 

This seems like a claim that the North Korean missile was carrying an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) warhead, many of which are essentially low-yield tactical nuclear explosives. One of the missiles launched by North Korea last Thursday was an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) which could theoretically carry such a payload, but according to South Korean intelligence, it suffered a technical error and exploded in flight. 

The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Monday that one of its ships was able to recover debris from the North Korean missile that landed closest to South Korean waters last week. The weapon in question was one of the North’s short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM), not the ICBM. 

South Korean officials also disputed the North’s claim that it launched two “strategic cruise missiles” in the direction of Ulsan, a South Korean city that has a nuclear power plant and numerous large factories. 

North Korea also made a highly unlikely claim that it conducted an “all-out combat sortie” with 500 aircraft last week, an operation that would have included almost every military aircraft Pyongyang controls, some of which are almost 80 years old.


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