North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has ordered a “exponential” increase in his country’s nuclear weapons, according to state television on Sunday.
According to the Associated Press, Kim has repeatedly promised to expand North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and stockpile in response to what he sees as US aggression. Experts believe North Korea possesses dozens of nuclear bombs, with one 2021 research estimating as many as 116.
“They are now determined to isolate and suffocate North Korea, which is unprecedented in mankind’s history,” Kim stated at a recent ruling party meeting, according to official media. “The current situation necessitates redoubling measures to massively strengthen up military muscle.”
Kim called for a “exponential growth of the country’s nuclear arsenal” to strike South Korea with tactical nuclear weapons, and he established a government mission to develop a weapon capable of hitting the US.
Tensions among North Korea and its Democrat neighbor to the south have lately risen as North Korea continues to conduct missile tests. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol recently reminded his senior military leaders that “our security situation is very critical,” according to the Associated Press.
The South Korean military has warned that any effort by Kim’s government to utilize a nuclear weapon would “mean the end of the Kim Jong Un government.”
Yoon told a South Korean publication that he wants to work more closely with the US to monitor and limit North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
“While nuclear weapons belong to the United States, intelligence sharing, planning, and training should be done together,” Yoon told Bloomberg. “The US position is extremely positive.”
North Korea concluded 2022 with the suspected launch of three ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan. The launches happened just one day after South Korea conducted a rocket test as part of its program to develop a space-based surveillance system for monitoring North Korea.
The ballistic missile test launches were described as a “grave provocation” by South Korea’s top military leadership.
According to South Korean authorities, North Korea sent drones across its southern border over South Korea for the first time in over five years last week. In response, South Korea launched drones into North Korean airspace.
North Korea increased its missile testing in 2022, testing around 70 missiles.
Experts say North Korea’s behavior, combined with Kim’s recent pronouncements on his country’s nuclear ambitions, demonstrates an empowered North Korea capable of supporting its bluster.