SEOUL, March 9 (UPI) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw a missile “fire assault drill” that apparently targeted South Korean airfields in preparation for an “actual war response,” state media reported Friday.
“Kim Jong Un examined the actual war response posture of the eight fire assault company under the unit charged with striking the enemy’s operation airport in the direction of the western front,” Korean Central News Agency reported.
Pyongyang fired at least one short-range ballistic missile into the sea from its west coast on Thursday evening, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a text message to reporters. The JCS added that it was analyzing the possibility that the North had simultaneously launched several missiles from the same area.
Images released by North Korean state media showed at least six missiles being fired simultaneously. Kim was accompanied at the launch site by his young daughter, Kim Ju Ae, who has been seen frequently since her first public appearance in November.
The North “fired a powerful volley at the targeted waters in the West Sea of Korea set under the simulated conditions of the major elements of the enemy operation airport, thus confidently demonstrating its capability to counter an actual war,” the KCNA report said.
Kim “stressed the need to always stay alert for all sorts of more frantic war preparation moves being committed by the enemy recently,” the report added.
The launches came as the U.S. and South Korea prepare to kick off their largest joint military exercise in five years next week.
North Korea has frequently condemned the joint drills as preparation for an invasion and warned last month of “unprecedentedly persistent and strong counteractions” to the upcoming exercise.
On Tuesday, Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of the North Korean leader, said that any attempts by the allies to shoot down the North’s missiles would be “regarded as a clear declaration of war.”
“We keep our eye on the restless military moves by the U.S. forces and the [S]outh Korean puppet military and are always on standby to take appropriate, quick and overwhelming action at any time according to our judgment,” she said, according to a statement carried by KCNA.
A U.S. intelligence assessment released Wednesday said that the North will continue to develop its nuclear and missile program in an effort to achieve “strategic dominance over South Korean and U.S. forces in the region.”