North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, pictured with his daughter Ju Ae, called for the military to prepare for nuclear counterattacks against South Korean and the United States, state media reported Monday. Photo by KCNA/UPI
SEOUL, March 20 (UPI) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw a weapons drill and called on the military to get "perfectly prepared" to conduct a nuclear attack, state media reported Monday.
The North held a two-day exercise over the weekend to practice its nuclear response capabilities, state-run Korean Central News Agency reported, including a ballistic missile launch on Sunday morning.
The drill "marked an important occasion in preparing our nuclear combat force to rapidly and accurately perform its crucial mission of war deterrence and securing war initiative any moment and under any unexpected circumstances," Kim said, according to KCNA.
He stressed the need for military personnel to get "perfectly prepared in their active posture of making an immediate and overwhelming nuclear counterattack anytime."
The missile was fired from Cholsan County in North Pyongan Province on the country's west coast, KCNA said. It traveled roughly 500 miles and exploded a half-mile above its target in the waters east of the Korean Peninsula.
The drill "simulated a nuclear strike at a major enemy target," the report said.
South Korea's military detected and reported the launch on Sunday, the latest in a series of weapons tests in recent weeks.
Pyongyang has angrily denounced the ongoing U.S.-South Korea Freedom Shield joint military exercise, which began last week and will continue until Thursday. Sunday's launch came just ahead of air drills involving U.S. B-1B strategic bombers.
North Korea conducted an intercontinental ballistic missile launch on Thursday, Pyongyang's second of the year so far. The secretive regime also fired short-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles from a submarine last week.
Images released by state media showed the North Korean leader accompanied by his young daughter, Ju Ae, who has frequently appeared by her father's side since her first public appearance in November.
Kim claimed that "the enemies are getting ever more pronounced in their moves for aggression against the DPRK."
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is the official name of North Korea.
The ongoing U.S.-South Korea military exercise "urgently requires the DPRK to bolster up its nuclear war deterrence exponentially," Kim said, according to the report.
Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said last week that the joint drills "are defensive in nature and meant to bolster our interoperability and meant to deter potential aggression in the region."
The U.S. and South Korean navies and marine corps also kicked off large-scale amphibious landing exercises on Monday for the first time in five years. The training will take place around Pohang, some 170 miles southeast of Seoul, and will run through April 3, a South Korean navy spokesman said at a press briefing.
North Korean state media reported Saturday that some 800,000 young citizens had volunteered to enlist in the military to fight the United States.