North Korea’s talks on new army duties hint at deployment of nuclear weapons

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea discussed assigning additional combat duties to its front-line military units at a key military meeting, state media said Thursday, a sign that it may want to deploy lines along the two countries to target rivals South Korea’s battlefield nuclear weapons’ tight borders.

The discussions came as South Korean officials said North Korea had completed preparations for its first nuclear test in five years as part of a possible effort to build warheads to install on short-range weapons capable of striking South Korean targets.

At a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Military Commission on Wednesday, leader Kim Jong Un and other senior military officers discussed “additional work to determine the operational responsibilities of the front-line units of the Korean People’s Army and to revise operations.” plan,” according to the official KCNA news agency.

Kim Jong-un also ordered measures to “enhance the combat capability of front-line troops,” KCNA said.

In April, North Korea test-fired a new type of tactical guided weapon,” which it said was “really aimed at significantly increasing the firepower of front-line long-range artillery units, enhancing (North Korea’s) tactical nuclear weapons, and diversifying their firepower missions. “

Its use of the term “tactical nuclear weapon” indicates that the weapon is likely to be a short-range weapon system equipped with a nuclear warhead. Some experts said at the time that North Korea intended to deploy such weapons to threaten key South Korean facilities, including U.S. military bases there.

In late April, Kim Jong-un said North Korea could use its nuclear weapons preemptively if threatened, and said his nuclear weapons “will never be limited to a single war deterrent if North Korea faces external threats to its “essential interests”. Task”. That heralds a possible escalation of North Korea’s nuclear doctrine, which could raise greater concerns in South Korea, Japan and the United States.

Earlier this week, Kim Jong-un convened a meeting of the Central Military Commission, identifying “critical and urgent tasks” to expand military capabilities and implement key defense policies.

North Korea is expected to conduct a seventh nuclear test after the meeting, said Cheong Seong-Chang, a senior analyst at the private Sejong Institute in South Korea, adding that its third nuclear test in 2013 was also conducted days after the Central Military Commission meeting.

Before this week’s meeting, Cheong said, Kim Jong-un had held 16 Central Military Commission meetings since he took power in late 2011, but this was the first time that the Central Military Commission has been held for more than two consecutive days.

Wednesday was the second day of the committee meeting. KCNA said the committee would continue to discuss the proposed agenda items, indicating the meeting would continue on Thursday.

Earlier this year, North Korea test-fired a barrage of missiles with potential ranges that put the mainland United States and its Asian allies such as South Korea and Japan within striking distance. North Korea wants to modernize its weapons systems and increase its leverage in future negotiations with the United States to win sanctions relief and other concessions, some experts said.

South Korean and U.S. officials have warned North Korea of ​​consequences if it goes ahead with its nuclear tests. But divisions among the permanent members of the UN Security Council have made the prospect of new punitive international sanctions on North Korea uncertain. Russia and China this year vetoed a U.S. resolution to increase sanctions, insisting Washington should focus on resuming dialogue.

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