SEOUL — North Korea broke its silence on a recent flurry of missile tests on Monday as its state media reported that the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, had overseen the test launches of several nuclear-capable short-range ballistic missiles, including one that was fired from an underwater silo.
The report was the first time that North Korea claimed it was building underwater nuclear weapons silos, suggesting that the country was developing technology that would make its missiles more difficult to detect and intercept.
North Korean news media also published photos that purported to show a ballistic missile rising from under the waters of a reservoir. One of the recent tests, it said, was a rehearsal for firing nuclear weapons at airports in South Korea.
The North has launched 12 ballistic missiles in seven weapons tests in the last two weeks. All of them have been short-range missiles, except the intermediate-range ballistic missile launched on Oct. 4 that flew over Japan, triggering alarms across the country’s north.
On Monday, state-run media reported Mr. Kim’s presence at the testing sites for the first time in five months, releasing a ream of photographs. The country has conducted a record 25 missile tests this year.
Monday marked the 77th anniversary of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, and its state media appeared to highlight Mr. Kim’s leadership by showcasing his country’s growing nuclear and missile capabilities — Mr. Kim’s biggest achievement since taking power more than a decade ago. Mr. Kim was quoted as saying that the recent tests were designed to demonstrate “our nuclear response posture and nuclear attack capabilities.”
He said his country felt no need to engage in “dialogue with the enemies.”
Under Mr. Kim, North Korea has demanded recognition as a nuclear weapons state, vowing to never bargain away its nuclear deterrent. Since Mr. Kim’s diplomacy with former President Donald J. Trump collapsed without an agreement, North Korea has doubled down on boosting its weapons programs, testing several new missiles that were harder to detect and intercept because they could fly at hypersonic speeds or change course during flight or were launched from railway cars rolled out of tunnels.
On Monday, North Korea said that in the missile test conducted Sept. 25, its soldiers simulated the loading of “tactical nuclear warheads at a silo under a reservoir,” testing their ability to launch ballistic missiles from “underwater silos.”
Three days after that test, North Korea fired two short-range missiles to practice launching tactical nuclear warheads that could “neutralize” South Korean airports, its state media said on Monday.
North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs are shrouded in secrecy, making it hard to assess their true capabilities. But analysts say Mr. Kim was using stalled talks with Washington to test and improve his weapons and raise the stakes in future negotiations.
The missile North Korea launched over Japan on Oct. 4 was a new type of intermediate-range ballistic missile, the country said. It was the first North Korean missile to fly over Japan since North Korea test-fired two Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missiles in 2017. It traveled about 2,800 miles, the longest distance ever traveled by a North Korean weapon, it said, matching estimates from South Korean and Japanese officials.
When North Korea test-fired its intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2017 and again in March, it launched them at a deliberately steep angle so that they soared high into space before falling into waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
After the test in 2017, North Korea claimed the ability to deliver nuclear warheads to the continental United States. The short-range and intermediate-range ballistic missiles it has launched in recent weeks were developed to target South Korea and United States military bases in the region, according to military experts.
North Korea on Monday released photos of artillery and rocket-firing exercises conducted last week, as well as an air-attack drill that it said involved more than 150 fighter planes. It was the first time North Korea deployed so many planes at the same time during an exercise, it said.
In Seoul, the office of President Yoon Suk Yeol said South Korea was boosting its alliance with the United States to deter North Korea. “We want North Korea to realize that possessing nuclear weapons not only endangers the peace and freedom of the region, but also does not help its own economy and security,” Kim Eun-hye, a spokeswoman for Mr. Yoon, said on Sunday.
On Friday, the Biden administration announced that it was imposing sanctions on several businessmen and companies in Asia that support the development of North Korean weapons.
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