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North Korea says recent missile launches were tactical nuke drills

North Korea's seven rounds of missile launches between Sept. 25 and Oct. 9 were tests of its tactical nuclear warfare capability, state-run KCNA said Monday. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw several of the tests and drills, KCNA reported. Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE
North Korea's seven rounds of missile launches between Sept. 25 and Oct. 9 were tests of its tactical nuclear warfare capability, state-run KCNA said Monday. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw several of the tests and drills, KCNA reported. Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE

SEOUL, Oct. 10 (UPI) -- North Korea's recent spate of missile launches were simulated nuclear weapon attacks on South Korean and U.S. targets, state-run media said in a report Monday.

The report came after Pyongyang fired a pair of short-range ballistic missiles into the sea between Korea and Japan early Sunday morning, its seventh weapons test over the past two weeks.

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The Sept. 25-Oct. 9 tests were held "in order to check and assess the war deterrent and nuclear counterattack capability of the country, which comes to be a severe warning to the enemies," Korean Central News Agency said.

Pyongyang said that the drills came in response to combined naval exercises held by the United States, South Korea and Japan involving the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its strike group.

The allied exercises prompted North Korea "to organize military drills under the simulation of an actual war at different levels," the KCNA report said.

Various tests simulated the loading and transport of tactical nuclear weapons, KCNA said, with launches meant to replicate specific targets in South Korea including airports, ports and military command facilities.

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North Korea also chose to send a "more powerful and clear warning to the enemies" with its Oct. 4 launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile that flew over Japan, a move widely condemned as Pyongyang's most provocative act since 2017.

The tests proved that North Korea's tactical nuclear weapons are "fully ready to hit and wipe out the set objects at the intended places in the set time," KCNA said.

State media also released its first images of the weapons tests Monday, including several photographs of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un overseeing the launches and other military drills.

Kim praised the successful demonstration of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons capacity as a "war deterrent" and again rejected calls from Washington and Seoul to return to the negotiating table for dialogue.

"The enemies still talked about dialogue and negotiation while posing military threats to us, but we have no content for dialogue with the enemies and felt no necessity to do so," Kim said, according to KCNA.

"The U.S. and the South Korean regime's steady, intentional and irresponsible acts of escalating the tension will only invite our greater reaction," he said.

Earlier on Sunday, U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that Washington remains open to nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang "without preconditions" but is working closely with Seoul and Tokyo to prepare for future North Korean provocations.

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"[Kim Jong Un has] clearly not abandoned his nuclear weapons ambitions," Kirby told ABC's This Week.

"What we have to do as we have that offer on the table is make sure that we have also the capabilities in the region ready to go in case we need them," he said.

Officials in Washington and Seoul have assessed that Pyongyang is ready to conduct a nuclear test -- its seventh overall and first since 2017 -- at any time.

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