SEOUL (AFP) -- North Korea fired two rockets on Monday, in a drill for a launcher Pyongyang said was capable of a “tactical nuclear attack” that could take out entire enemy air bases.
It was North Korea’s second weapons launch in 48 hours, after it fired one of its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) on Saturday to protest plans for increased U.S.-South Korea military exercises.
Japan said the ICBM landed in its exclusive economic zone, and the United States and South Korea staged snap joint air drills on Sunday in response.
Pyongyang said the Korean People’s Army (KPA) conducted Monday’s drill in retaliation for those U.S.-South Korean exercises, blaming the allies for the deteriorating security situation, according to a report by state media outlet KCNA.
“Through today’s firing drill with the involvement of super-large multiple rocket launchers, the tactical nuclear attack means, the KPA demonstrated its full readiness to deter and will to counter” the joint air drills, KCNA said.
The rocket launchers were powerful enough to “reduce to ashes the enemy’s operational airfield”, it added.
The South Korean military said it detected the launch of two short-range ballistic missiles on Monday at 0700-0711 (2200-2211 GMT Sunday). One travelled 390 kilometeRs (240 miles) and the other 340 kilometeRs, before they landed in the East Sea -- the body of water also known as the Sea of Japan.
The UN Security Council will hold a meeting to discuss the situation on Tuesday.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s powerful sister warned the country was closely monitoring Washington and Seoul’s moves to deploy more U.S. strategic assets to the region, vowing “corresponding counteraction” if deemed necessary.
“The frequency of using the Pacific as our firing range depends upon the U.S. forces’ action character,” Kim Yo Jong said in a statement published by KCNA.
Pyongyang said its Saturday ICBM launch was a “surprise” drill that demonstrated North Korea’s capacity to carry out a “fatal nuclear counterattack”.
Such claims intend to demonstrate “not only the development of strategic and tactical nuclear forces but also the operational capability to use them”, said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
The North Korean weapons launches came ahead of a joint U.S.-South Korean tabletop exercise this week aimed at improving their response in the event of a nuclear attack by Pyongyang.
North Korea warned last week of an “unprecedentedly” strong response to the planned joint drills by Seoul and Washington, which it describes as preparations for war.