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North Korea Unveils New Tactical Nuclear Weapons

Kim Jong-un
Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, who has placed a significant emphasis on his country’s nuclear capabilities. Credit: The Presidential Press and Information Office / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 4.0

North Korea has claimed that it has tactical nuclear weapons with the capability to hit targets in neighboring South Korea.

The North Korean government has maintained for years that the country is armed with tactical nuclear weapons. However, this is the first time that pictures of the devices were shown, appearing in the state newspaper on Tuesday.

For now, nuclear weapons experts have been unable to verify the authenticity of the devices shown in the pictures. This will likely remain the case until North Korea tests one of its nuclear weapons.

North Korea’s nuclear weapons capabilities

The timing of the KCNA state media report alleging to show the new nuclear weapons is not random. Indeed, North Korea’s longtime rival and neighbor, South Korea, have just commenced joint military drills with the US.

As the US aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and its accompanying vessels sailed into South Korean waters this week, Pyongyang launched two test missiles which landed just outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

The test launch, together with the unveiling of new nuclear weapons capabilities, fits with an existing pattern established by Pyongyang. When the North Korean government feels that its interests are threatened, it will often resort to a display of weapons testing to act as a diplomatic signal.

During a publicized tour of the nuclear weapons production facility, the country’s leader Kim Jong-un stressed that North Korea was ready to use nuclear weapons “anytime and anywhere”.

Weapons testing

Scientists and military technicians from North Korea have been engaged in a flurry of activity over the span of about two weeks.

Earlier in March, Pyongyang test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) just hours before the leaders of Japan and South Korea were scheduled to meet in Tokyo. The ICBM was the most potent yet tested by North Korea and could supposedly hit targets on the US mainland.

North Korea has also recently launched missiles from both a submarine and an underground silo. Around the same time, their military conducted a simulated nuclear attack on a South Korean airfield.

Last week, Kim Jong-un also unveiled an underwater attack drone, which he claimed is capable of launching nuclear weapons underwater, which would cause a “super-scale radioactive tsunami” capable of destroying enemy naval vessels.

North Korean state media KCNA reported that successful testing of the supposedly nuclear-capable underwater drone coincided with joint military drills conducted by American and South Korean forces.

North Korea called the joint military drills “intentional, persistent and provocative” and accused the two countries of having “kicked off a large-scale dangerous drill, an actual drill for occupying the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea]”.

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