Seoul: North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has ordered further nuclear tests, as military tensions surge on the Korean peninsula with South Korean and US forces engaged in large-scale joint exercisescondemned by Pyongyang.

Kim Jong-Un meets scientists to discuss boosting nuclear arsenal. Pic/AFP
Kim Jong-Un meets scientists to discuss boosting nuclear arsenal. Pic/AFP

Since the joint drills began on Monday, the North has issued daily warnings and statements, talking up its nuclear strike capabilities and threatening to turn Seoul and Washington into “flames and ashes.”

Just days after he was photographed posing in front of what state media described as a miniaturised nuclear warhead, Kim said the weapon required further testing. Overseeing a ballistic missile launch on Thursday, Kim ordered “more nuclear explosion tests to estimate the destructive power of the newly produced nuclear warheads," the North’s official KCNA news agency said.

Nuclear strike drill
According to KCNA, Thursday’s launch of two short-range ballistic missiles, which traversed the eastern part of the country before falling into the East Sea (Sea of Japan), was part of a nuclear strike exercise.

The aim was to simulate conditions for “exploding nuclear warheads from the preset altitude above targets in the ports under enemy control,” the agency said.

Watching the exercise, Kim reiterated an earlier threat to launch an immediate nuclear attack if the “sabre-rattling” South Korea-US drills should harm “even a single tree or a blade of grass” on North Korean territory.
“I will issue a prompt order to launch attack with all military strike means,” he said.

South Korea and the United States responded by scaling up their annual joint drills, which Pyongyang has always condemned as provocative rehearsals for invasion.

The UN Security Council responded to the North's latest nuclear test and rocket launch by adopting tough, new sanctions, which Pyongyang condemned as a “gangster-like” provocation orchestrated by the United States.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday voiced grave concern over the growing tensions, and urged North Korea to avoid any further “destabilising acts.”