North Korea says its missile test barrage was simulation of war against US and South Korea

North Korea has said its recent barrage of missile tests were practice by its army to “mercilessly” strike US and South Korea’s key targets, including air bases and operation command systems.

The recent tests included 26 launches in a day and some of the tests likely included a nuclear-capable weapon.

North Korea carried out the military drills over four days, starting 2 November, in response to the joint “Vigilant Storm” air force drills by the US and South Korea.

“The recent corresponding military operations by the Korean People’s Army are a clear answer of (North Korea) that the more persistently the enemies’ provocative military moves continue, the more thoroughly and mercilessly the KPA will counter them,” the general staff of North Korea’s military was quoted as saying to state media on Monday.

The presence of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at any of the missile-testing activities was not confirmed by state media reports.

North Korea called the joint drills by the US and South Korea an “open provocative act of intentionally aggravating tension in the region and in particular, a dangerous war drill with very strong aggressive nature aiming at our state directly,” according to the state-run Voice of Korea (VOK), reported Seoul-based NKNews.

These launches involved ballistic missiles loaded with dispersion warheads and underground infiltration warheads meant to launch strikes on enemy air bases, the North Korean military’s general staff said.

Other projectiles included ground-to-air missiles designed to annihilate enemy aircraft at different altitudes and distances.

North Korea also fired strategic cruise missiles that fell in international waters about 80km (50 miles) off South Korea’s southeastern coastal city of Ulsan.

The North Korean state report confirmed the launch of two “tactical ballistic missiles loaded with warheads for dispersion” along with two MLRS [Multiple Launch Rocket System] missiles at “an uninhabited island before the West Sea Barrage, simulating an attack on the enemy’s air base” on Saturday.

The Korean military confirmed a critical test of a ballistic missile with a special functional warhead mission with “paralysing the operation command system of the enemy,” indicating that Pyongyang is preparing for a simulation of electromagnetic pulse attacks.

Observers have, however, questioned North Korea’s capability to master key technologies to achieve such an attack capability.

While the statement from North Korea’s military did not confirm an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from Thursday last week which is capable of hitting the US mainland, the state newspaper carried the photo of a missile resembling an ICBM as one of the weapons fired from Pyongyang.

The latest photos claimed to show multiple missile launches off North Korea’s coast, one of which it has called a retaliatory launch attack with cruise missiles. This was not confirmed by South Korea initially.

According to the report, North Korea fired a “retaliatory attack with two strategic cruise missiles to the open sea in the waters (35° 29’ 51.6” N 130° 19’ 39.6” E) 80 kilometres (50 miles) off Ulsan City of South Korea”.

These missiles were fired from North Hamgyong province and flew 590.5km (366 miles).

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) spokesperson Kim Jun-rak said its military reconnaissance assets, along with those of the US, did not “detect or find anything” to confirm North Korea’s cruise missile claims.

“Not everything is true,” the North Korean report quoted the official as saying at a regular briefing on Monday.

The South said North Korea fired at least 33 missiles of different types and 100 artillery shells in total last week from 10 locations around the country.