NKorea tests underwater nuclear attack drone in response to rivals’ naval drills

Published : 19 Jan 2024 09:37 PM

North Korea said Friday it had tested a purported underwater nuclear attack drone in response to a combined naval exercise between South Korea and the United States and Japan this week, as it continues to blame its rivals for raising tensions in the region.

The alleged drone test came days after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un declared he would scrap his country's long-standing goal of a peaceful unification with South Korea and that his country would rewrite its constitution to define South Korea as its most hostile foreign adversary.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have risen to their highest point in years, with Kim accelerating his weapons testing activity and threatening nuclear conflict. The United States and its Asian allies have responded by strengthening their combined military exercises, which Kim calls rehearsals for invasion.

North Korea's alleged nuclear attack drone, which the North first tested last year, is among a broad range of weapon systems demonstrated in recent years as Kim expands his arsenal of nuclear-capable weapons. South Korea's military has insisted the North has exaggerated the capabilities of the drone, which is supposedly designed to carry out strikes on enemy vessels and ports.

The North's military said it conducted the test in the country's eastern waters in response to the U.S., South Korean, and Japanese joint naval drill, which ended Wednesday in waters south of Jeju island. "Our army's underwater nuke-based countering posture is being further rounded off and its various maritime and underwater responsive actions will continue to deter the hostile military maneuvers of the navies of the U.S. and its allies," the North's Defense Ministry said in a statement.

"We strongly denounce the U.S. and its followers for their reckless acts of seriously threatening the security of the DPRK from the outset of the year and sternly warn them of the catastrophic consequences to be entailed by them," it said, using the initials of North Korea's formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The North in recent months has also tested various missile systems designed to target the United States and its Asian allies, and announced an escalatory nuclear doctrine that authorizes the military to conduct preemptive nuclear strikes if the leadership in Pyongyang is under threat.

The North conducted its first ballistic missile test of 2024 on Sunday, which state media described as a new solid-fuel, intermediate-range missile tipped with a hypersonic warhead, likely intended to target U.S. military bases in Guam and Japan.

At an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, South Korea called on the council "to break the silence" over North Korea's escalating missile tests and threats. The council's permanent members, Russia and China, have blocked U.S.-led efforts to increase sanctions on Pyongyang over its recent testing activity, underscoring a divide deepened over Russia's war on Ukraine. South Korea is serving a two-year term on the council.