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North Korea conducted a massive simulated “scorched earth” nuclear attack on South Korea, its officials said. The simulated attack also included a rehearsed occupation of its rival’s territory.
On Wednesday evening, North Korea’s military fired two tactical ballistic missiles from its capital city of Pyongyang to practice “scorched earth strikes” over major South Korean command centers and operational airfields, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.
The North’s military said it observed the missiles detonating at a set altitude, suggesting their simulated strikes included the explosions of dummy nuclear warheads. Atomic weapons, such as those used during World War II over Japan are typically detonated above the Earth, rather than hitting it directly, to increase their devastating potential.
According to KCNA, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un visited an army post where his military has been holding command post drills in response to the South Korean-U.S. military training. The outlet reported the North rehearsed “occupying the whole territory of the southern half” of the Korean Peninsula.
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This combination of photos provided by the North Korean government shows what it says a tactical nuclear strike drill in Pyongyang, North Korea Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
South Korea’s Unification Ministry strongly condemned North Korea for the simulated attack on the South and warned the hermit country would face “an overwhelming response” by South Korea, the U.S. and Japan if it continues its provocation and military threats.
During the visit, Kim underscored the need to “deal a heavy blow at the enemy’s war potential and war command center and blinding their means of command communication at the initial stage of operation.”
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Kim also expressed a need to acquire an ability to launch “simultaneous super-intense strikes” at key enemy military targets and other sites to cause social and economic chaos, according to KNCA. This could suggest North Korea intends to conduct nuclear and EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attacks at the early stage of a potential war, according to an expert.
This photo provided on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during his visit to the navy headquarter in North Korea, on Aug. 27, 2023. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
According to South Korean and Japanese assessments, the two short-range missiles traveled approximately 225-250 miles at a maximum altitude of 30 miles before landing in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff called the action “a grave provocation” that threatens international peace and violates U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban any ballistic launches by North Korea.
The launches and simulated war come as the militaries of South Korea and the U.S. are conducting joint exercises in the Pacific, including over the Korean Peninsula, which the North views as a security threat.
North Korea said its new missile tests were in direct response to the United States’ flyover of long-range B-1B bombers during a joint aerial training with South Korea earlier Wednesday.
“(The aerial drill) is a serious threat to (North Korea) as it was just pursuant to the scenario for a preemptive nuclear strike at” North Korea, the Korean People’s Army general staff said. “The KPA will never overlook the rash acts of the U.S. forces and the (South Korean) military gangsters.”
North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles toward the sea on Wednesday night, its neighbors said, hours after the U.S. flew long-range bombers for drills with its allies in a show of force against the North. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
North Korea abhors the use of U.S. B-1B bombers, which it describes as “nuclear strategic” and has described major U.S.-involved military drills on and near the Korean Peninsula as preparation for invasion.
On Aug. 21, the U.S. and South Korean militaries kicked off their summer Ulchi Freedom Shield computer-simulated command post exercise. During this year’s training, the allies have included more than 30 kinds of field exercises, such as Wednesday’s joint aerial exercise involving the B-1B aircraft.
The exercises are slated to end Thursday, Aug. 31.
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Washington and Seoul maintain the drills are defensive. The U.S. keeps about 28,000 troops in South Korea.
The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said the U.S. commitment to the defense of South Korea and Japan remains “ironclad.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.