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Kim Jong Un threatens nuclear use ‘anytime’ as U.S. carrier arrives in South Korea

March 27, 2023 Updated Mon., March 27, 2023 at 10:11 p.m.

People watch a television broadcast showing a file image of a North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un at the Seoul Railway Station on June 5 in Seoul, South Korea.  (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
People watch a television broadcast showing a file image of a North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un at the Seoul Railway Station on June 5 in Seoul, South Korea. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
By Jeong-Ho Lee Bloomberg News

SEOUL, South Korea – Kim Jong Un said North Korea is ready to use nuclear weapons “anytime and anywhere,” delivering a new threat as a U.S. aircraft carrier group arrives in South Korea.

Kim made the comments while visiting a facility producing nuclear bombs, the official Korean Central News Agency reported Tuesday. State media released images of Kim standing with military officials among his arsenal of warheads.

Kim reiterated his call to exponentially increase North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, which “is aimed to defend the eternal security of the state and the regional peace and stability from A to Z.” The visit to the facility came as North Korea has rolled out new weapons to deliver nuclear strikes in recent weeks and pledged an unprecedented response to joint military drills between the United States and South Korea.

“This is a significant size improvement over prior North Korean nuclear weapons, and possibly design advance,” George William Herbert, an adjunct professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said on Twitter about the warheads shown in the photographs.

North Korea is estimated to have about 80 to 90 warheads, the Seoul-based Korea Institute for Defense Analyses said in a paper released in January, adding that Kim was looking to have between 100 to 300 over the long term.

The USS Nimitz aircraft carrier group is due to arrive in Busan on Tuesday as part of efforts to strengthen the combined military posture of the allies, South Korea’s Defense Ministry has said. North Korea raised tensions to new levels the last time a U.S. Navy carrier group was in South Korea about six months ago, which included firing its first missile over Japan in five years.

That visit by the USS Ronald Reagan carrier group included anti-missile drills that also involved South Korea and Japan, which raised the ire of Pyongyang.

Although there have been no announcements of joint drills again among the three for this visit by the USS Nimitz, the carrier group conducted exercises with South Korea’s navy Monday as part of field training known as Warrior Shield.

North Korea test-launched two short-range ballistic missiles Monday, adding to its barrage in recent weeks that has included two intercontinental ballistic missiles designed to deliver a nuclear warhead to the U.S. mainland and about a dozen rockets that could be used in nuclear strikes against South Korea and Japan. Those two nations host the bulk of America’s military personnel in the region.

Among the new weapons rolled out by Kim’s regime have been an underwater drone it says can deliver a nuclear strike capable of causing a “radioactive tsunami.” South Korea’s Defense Ministry on Monday said it doubted the claims by North Korea.

North Korea, which had fired 15 ballistic missiles since Feb. 18, has for years called joint drills a prelude to an invasion and nuclear war. The U.S. and South Korea in January announced plans to step up the scale of their military exercises. Japan, which North Korea regards as mortal enemy, has also joined some of the drills in recent months.

The drills were scaled back or halted under former President Donald Trump to facilitate his talks with Kim. North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal only grew larger and more potent as the talks sputtered.

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