North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has overseen military drills to launch a “nuclear counterattack” in response to joint US-South Korean air drills, state news agency KCNA reported today.

Mr Kim “conducted a joint tactical exercise simulating a nuclear counter-attack involving very large-sized multiple missile launchers,” KCNA said. According to the same source, the missiles, which carried fake nuclear warheads, reached their target, 352 kilometers from the launch site.

The leader expressed his “great satisfaction with the outcome of the exercise”, always according to the agency.

South Korea’s military said yesterday that North Korea had fired a series of short-range ballistic missiles, which Japan confirmed. According to Seoul, the missiles were fired from the Pyongyang region before landing in the water east of the Korean peninsula.

“Provocative and aggressive”

According to KCNA, the exercise was in response to the joint US and South Korean annual drills since April 12 at the Kunsan base in South Korea. Pyongyang considered the high schools “extremely provocative and aggressive” and overtly designed against it, the agency added.

North Korea views with a bad eye the joint high schools that the US, South Korea and Japan often organize in the region: it perceives them as general rehearsals for an invasion of its territory, or an attempt to overthrow its regime.

After the new record of missile tests in 2023, North Korea has already carried out several launches since the beginning of this year. Pyongyang says it tested a new medium- to long-range solid-fueled supersonic missile in early April. On Friday, the announcement of the test of a “very large warhead”, intended for a strategic cruise missile.

North Korea has been subject to a series of UN sanctions since 2006, which have been repeatedly strengthened since then, to prevent it in theory from developing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.

However, Kim Jong Un’s regime continued its banned military programs and in 2022 described the nuclear power status it has acquired as “irreversible”. At the same time, he has greatly hardened the tone towards South Korea, which he now describes as “the main enemy” and has erased any prospect of reunification of the peninsula.

In March, Russia used its veto in the Security Council to prevent it from passing a draft resolution extending for a year the mandate of a panel of experts tasked with overseeing the implementation of the sanctions.

Pyongyang has recently further strengthened its ties with Moscow, its traditional ally, which the West has been trying to isolate internationally since the outbreak of war in Ukraine. Washington and Seoul accuse Pyongyang of supplying Moscow with weapons and ammunition in exchange for military technology, especially spy satellites.