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Kim orders ‘exponential increase’ of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal to counter US threat

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered the development of new nuclear-capable inter-continental ballistic missiles and the mass production of tactical nuclear weapons to counter the threat from the United States to his country’s sovereignty.

Kim called “for an exponential increase of the country’s nuclear arsenal,” in a report at the end of a key party meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party in Pyongyang on Sunday, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The North Korean leader said the move was aimed at countering threats from the US and South Korea, and to defend the country’s “sovereignty and security.”

Citing US and South Korean hostility, the report said the North needed “mass-producing of tactical nuclear weapons” and to “develop another ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) system whose main mission is quick nuclear counterstrike.”

Kim accused Washington and Seoul of carrying out “a plot to isolate and stifle” Pyongyang, which is “unparalleled in human history.”

He said the situation called for Pyongyang to “double down our efforts to strengthen our military power overwhelmingly” and “to safeguard our sovereignty, safety and basic national interest to cope with the dangerous military moves by the US and other hostile forces that target us”, KCNA reported.

“It highlights the importance and necessity of mass producing tactical nuclear weapons and calls for an exponential increase of the country’s nuclear arsenal,” Kim said.

The North Korean leader also ordered the manufacturing of a new type of ICBM “with a rapid nuclear counterattack capability as its basic mission,” KCNA reported.

In a separate KCNA report, Kim said the weapons put South Korea “as a whole within the range of strike and (were) capable of carrying (a) tactical nuclear warhead”.

Kim’s remarks came hours after the North fired a short-range ballistic missile into the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan, in a launch that marked the nuclear-armed state’s second one in as many days.

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency cited the South’s military as saying that the launch took place on Sunday morning.

The launch came less than a day after the North fired at least three short-range ballistic missiles toward the sea lying east of the Korean Peninsula.

Pyongyang says its new missiles are capable of carrying nuclear weapons with all of South Korea within their range.

The North says the tests are in response to the United States’ growing presence in the region and its joint military drills with the South and Japan. Pyongyang considers such exercises as a provocation and rehearsal for the invasion of its territory.

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