North Korea approves new frontline military tasks amid tensions

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SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un doubled its nuclear weapons buildup to overwhelm ‘hostile forces’ in a key meeting where military leaders approved new unspecified operational tasks for the front line army units.
Members of the ruling Workers’ Party Central Military Commission decided to complete a “major military action plan” on the duties of frontline troops and further strengthen the country’s nuclear war deterrence, state media said on Friday.
North Korea has not specified new operational tasks for frontline army units, but analysts say the country may consider deploying nuclear weapons to the battlefield targeting its South Korean rival along of its tense border.
While North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles that could reach the U.S. mainland is attracting much international attention, it is also developing a variety of short-range nuclear-capable missiles that can target South Korea. South.
Experts say his rhetoric around those missiles communicates a threat to use them proactively in warfare to blunt the stronger conventional forces of South Korea and the United States. About 28,500 American troops are stationed in the South to deter northern aggression.
At the three-day meeting of the military commission that ended on Thursday, Kim called on his entire army to “do everything possible” to implement plans to build up the country’s military muscle and consolidate ” powerful self-defense capabilities to crush all hostile forces and thus reliably”. protect the dignity of the great country.
The report by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency did not include any direct criticism of Washington or Seoul amid a prolonged stalemate in nuclear talks.
Shaking off an old pattern of precariousness, North Korea has already set an annual ballistic test record in the first half of 2022, firing around 30 missiles in more than 18 launch events, including its first tests involving intercontinental ballistic missiles. in nearly five years.
Kim punctuated his recent tests with repeated comments that North Korea would proactively use its nuclear weapons when threatened or provoked, which experts say portends an escalating nuclear doctrine that could create greater concern for neighbours.
North Korea’s apparent push to deploy nuclear weapons to the battlefield in frontline units had been planned since April, when Kim oversaw a test of a new short-range missile that state media said would ‘significantly’ improve the firepower of front-line artillery units and ‘enhance the operational efficiency of tactical nuclear weapons’ .
Experts say North Korea’s unusually fast pace of testing activity this year underscores Kim’s dual intent to advance its arsenal and pressure Washington over a long-stalled nuclear diplomacy. The talks have stalled since early 2019 over disagreements over the exchange of the release of crippling US-led sanctions against the North and the North’s disarmament measures.
Kim has shown no intention of fully giving up an arsenal that he considers his best guarantee of survival. His pressure campaign aims to force the United States to accept the idea of ​​the North as a nuclear power and to negotiate economic and security concessions from a position of strength, experts say.
The military meeting came amid signs that North Korea is preparing to carry out its first nuclear test since September 2017, when it claimed to have detonated a thermonuclear weapon that could be swung on its ICBMs.
Experts say North Korea could use its next nuclear test to claim it has acquired the ability to build a small nuclear warhead to fit its short-range missiles or other weapons it has recently acquired. tested, including a purported hypersonic missile and a long-range cruise missile. Smaller warheads would also be needed for the North’s declared pursuit of a multiple-warhead ICBM.

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