North Korea says recent missile tests a ‘practice’ to strike South Korea, US targets

The General Staff of North Korea’s military said Monday that its recent barrage of missile tests was meant as practice to strike key South Korean and US targets such as air bases and operation command systems.

In a statement published on state media, the military said: “The recent corresponding military operations by the Korean People’s Army are a clear answer of (North Korea) that the more persistently the enemies’ provocative military moves continue, the more thoroughly and mercilessly the KPA (Korean People’s Army) will counter them.”

The military also stated that ballistic missiles were tested for targeting enemy air bases while ground-to-air missiles were meant to strike enemy aircraft adding that another ballistic missile with a special function warhead was tested to strike a command post.

Associated Press reported that the North’s announcement underscored leader Kim Jong Un’s determination not to back down in the face of his rivals’ push to expand their military exercises. But some experts say Kim also used their drills as an excuse to modernize his nuclear arsenal and increase his leverage in future dealings with Washington and Seoul.

Last week, in protest over the military drills, North Korea fired dozens of missiles and flew warplanes toward the sea. This sparked evacuation alerts in some areas in South Korea and Japan.

North Korea views the drills as an invasion rehearsal.

The North’s military statement didn’t explicitly mention a reported launch Thursday of an intercontinental ballistic missile aimed at hitting the US mainland. But its main newspaper published a photo of an ICBM-like weapon as one that was used during last week’s testing activities, AP reported.

However, some experts have said that many North Korean missiles launched last week were short-range nuclear-capable weapons that place key military targets in South Korea, including US military bases there, within striking range.