North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for an "exponential increase" in the country's nuclear arsenal, highlighting the need to mass-produce tactical nuclear weapons, as well as development of a new intercontinental ballistic missile system, the official Korean Central News Agency said Sunday.
During a six-day meeting of North Korea's ruling party through Saturday, Kim unveiled a nuclear strategy to counter South Korea, which he called an "undoubted enemy" that is "hell-bent on imprudent and dangerous arms buildup while busying itself with hostile military moves to pose a confrontational challenge," KCNA said.
With regard to the new ICBM system, whose "main mission is quick nuclear counterstrike," it is believed Pyongyang is aiming to develop one equipped with a solid-fuel engine that could launch missiles with a shorter preparation time compared with liquid-fueled missiles.
In a report to an enlarged plenary meeting of the Workers' Party of Korea Central Committee, Kim said the first mission of the North's nuclear force is to deter war and safeguard peace and stability. However, if deterrence fails, it will carry out its second mission, which will "not be for defense," the news agency said.
Legislation adopted in September allows a pre-emptive nuclear strike by Pyongyang if the country is placed in danger owing to an attack by hostile forces.
Following the KCNA report, South Korea's defense ministry issued a warning that should North Korea attempt to use nuclear weapons, it would lead to "the end of the Kim Jong Un regime."
In 2022, North Korea launched missiles, including ICBMs, on a record 37 occasions in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions. On New Year's Eve and at dawn on New Year's Day, it also tested "super-large multiple rocket launchers," KCNA said.
In a ceremony Saturday to donate 30 units of the 600-millimeter rocket launcher to the ruling party, Kim called it an "offensive weapon" capable of carrying tactical nuclear warheads that has all of South Korea within its range, it said.
Kim criticized the United States for "working hard to establish a new military bloc like Asian version of NATO" by deepening cooperation with South Korea and Japan "on a full scale," KCNA said.
He did not make individual reference to Japan, but warned against countries that try to deprive the North of its "sacred dignity and sovereignty" together with the United States under their partnership strategy.
The North will also aim to launch its first reconnaissance satellite at the earliest date possible, according to the report. The party meeting reviewed the country's policies in 2022 and discussed a draft budget and national strategies for 2023.
In December, North Korea conducted an "important final-stage test" for the development of a spy satellite and said it will complete preparations for it by April 2023.