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North Korea Threatens To Deploy Nuclear Weapons On Warships; Kim Signals His Daughter Could Be The Heir

North Korea has announced that it would soon deploy nuclear weapons on naval platforms and bring the maritime force into its nuclear deterrence plans, which could provoke the US, which is currently carrying out naval drills with South Korea in the region.

Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s leader, said his country’s navy would become “a component of the state nuclear deterrence,” according to North Korean state media reports on August 29.

Recently, the US carried out a trilateral maritime wargaming exercise with South Korea and Japan to counter North Korea’s evolving nuclear threats. The US and South Korea have conducted summer bilateral military exercises since last week.

North Korea has criticized these US maritime military postures and viewed them as “invasion rehearsals,” even though the US and its allies have maintained that their military drills were defensive, the Associated Press reported.

‘The Gang Bosses’

Kim said, in a speech marking North Korea’s Navy Day on August 28, that the waters of the Korean Peninsula have been made unstable “with the danger of a nuclear war” because of US-led hostilities, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

Kim was quoted as saying the military units of each service would be given new weaponry in line with his administration’s policy to widen the scope of its tactical nuclear arsenal. This suggests North Korea would deploy new nuclear-capable missiles with the naval force and other military organs.

The North Korean leader accused the US of conducting “more frantic” naval drills with its allies and deploying strategic assets in waters around the Korean Peninsula.

The US also recently held a summit meeting with South Korea and Japan when they agreed to boost defense cooperation to counter the North Korean nuclear program.

Kim also cited a recent U.S.-South Korean-Japanese summit where an agreement to boost defense cooperation was reached to counter North Korea’s nuclear program. Kim called the three nations’ leaders “the gang bosses.”

Naval Exercises By US, South Korea, Japan

The trilateral naval drills by the US, South Korea, and Japan are progressing in the international waters off South Korea’s southern Jeju island.

The maritime exercise involves naval destroyers from the three countries and is aimed at mastering procedures for detecting, tracking, and sharing information about incoming North Korean missiles, South Korea’s navy said in a statement.

The 11-day bilateral maritime exercise between the US and South Korea began on August 21. The annual Ulchi Freedom Shield training is a computer-simulated command post-exercise. But they included field exercises this year, the AP report said.

Typically, North Korea has always responded to the annual US-South Korea naval exercises with missile tests. Last week, North Korea attempted to launch a spy satellite for the second time but failed. This year, when the bilateral exercise between the US and South Korea began, Kim witnessed the test-firings of strategic cruise missiles, KCNA reported.

Impact Of North Korea’s Frequent Weapon Tests

Since 2022, North Korea has conducted over 100 weapons tests, including nuclear-capable missiles. These weapons target the US, South Korea, and Japan, which North Korea views as enemies.

Many experts say North Korea ultimately wants to use its boosted military capabilities to wrest more significant concessions from the US, the AP reported.

North Korea’s frequent weapons tests have forced the US and South Korea to expand their military drills. The report said they have also resumed trilateral training involving Japan, apart from increased “regular visibility” of US strategic assets in the Korean Peninsula.

In July, the United States deployed a nuclear-armed submarine to South Korea for the first time in four decades. Earlier this month, the US, South Korea, and Japanese leaders held their first-ever stand-alone trilateral summit at Camp David.

During the Camp David meeting, they announced they intend to put into operation by year’s end the sharing of real-time missile warning data on North Korea and hold annual trilateral exercises.

North Korea underwater nuclear drone
File: North Korea underwater nuclear drone

Kim Responds

The North Korean leader, too, has proved that he is no push-over as he expands the nuclear inventory of his nation’s military, testing new weapons, and introducing sophisticated military systems into the armed forces.

Kim has also used the imagery of his daughter accompanying him to military facilities, including the recent naval headquarters visit, to send out a softer side of his image, apart from giving grist to the mill that his 10-year-old girl, reportedly named Ju Ae, could be his political heir. This was Ju Ae’s first visit to a military facility since May this year, though she has been frequenting public events since November last.

South Korea feels Kim is yet to officially anoint Ju Ae, his successor to North Korean power. However, they believe the public appearance of the girl is the North Korean leader’s way of showing the citizens that one of his children would one day inherit his power in what would be the country’s third hereditary power transfer.

  • NC Bipindra is a 30-year veteran in journalism specializing in strategic affairs, geopolitics, aerospace, defense, and diplomacy. He has written extensively for the Times of India, New Indian Express, Press Trust of India, and Bloomberg News. He can be reached at ncbipindra (at) gmail.com
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