NewsBreak: ‘Imminent Threat’: Kim Jong Un Unveils Mini Nukes as US Carrier Arrives in South Korea

To enlarge its nuclear arsenal, North Korea is going small, unveiling tactical nuclear warheads that could fit on short-range missiles and pose what an analyst called an “imminent threat” to its southern neighbor.

North Korean state media on Tuesday released photos of leader Kim Jong Un inspecting what appears to be smaller nuclear warheads. The images came on the same day that a U.S. aircraft carrier docked in South Korea for joint military drills, despite Pyongyang’s protests.

The images offer the first glimpse of the country’s mini nukes, which can be used in targeted strikes and are considered by some analysts to hold greater potential for escalation due to the more limited damage they inflict compared to more powerful strategic nukes.

“For South Korea, tactical nukes are an imminent threat to national security and the survival of the Korean people, while the U.S. would not feel the heat since tactical nukes are not for ICBMs,” Yang Uk, a weapons expert from the South Korean nonprofit think tank Asan Institute for Policy Studies, told VICE World News.

ICBMs—or intercontinental ballistic missiles—have a range covering most of continental U.S, while tactical nuclear warheads are generally mounted on short-range missiles.

Yang said the smaller warheads could be mounted on Pyongyang’s new generation of short-range missiles like the KN-23, KN-24, and KN-25—cruise missiles used against terrestrial or naval targets—and even the country’s new nuclear torpedoes, adding to North Korea’s growing array of weaponry.

Cho Han-bum, a senior research fellow at think tank the Korea Institute for National Unification, said that by developing the smaller warheads, North Korea is trying to secure military superiority on the Korean Peninsula.

“This means that the U.S. needs greater efforts and military resources to defend South Korea,” Cho told VICE World News.

Since U.S.-South Korea military drills began on March 13, Pyongyang has fired missiles from a submarine, simulated a nuclear counterattack, and has reportedly recruited 1.4 million people into its military.

On Monday, Kim Jong Un reportedly told his officials that the country should be prepared to use its nuclear weapons “anytime and anywhere.”

Pyongyang also revealed a new underwater drone on Friday, which is designed to attack enemy vessels and ports using large radioactive waves through underwater explosions. Dubbed Haeil—tsunami in Korean—the country claimed it could unleash a “radioactive tsunami” and carry nuclear warheads, though analysts are skeptical of such assertions.

The U.S. has insisted that its exercises with South Korea are defensive in nature. Rear Admiral Christopher Sweeney, strike group commander of USS Nimitz, said the alliance is prepared to adapt to new challenges and threats.

“We don’t seek conflicts with [North Korea]. We seek peace and security. We’re not going to be coerced, we’re not going to be bullied and we’re not going anywhere,” he told reporters on Tuesday aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, according to Reuters.

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