Kim Jong Un watches North Korean soldiers practise an attack on the South

Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, oversaw a live-fire artillery drill that simulated an attack on a South Korean airfield. He also told his troops to be ready to respond to the “frantic war preparation moves” of their enemies. He was probably talking about the recent military drills between the US and South Korea.

The North’s state media said this on Friday, a day after South Korea’s military saw the North fire at least one short-range ballistic missile into the sea from a site near the city of Nampo on the west coast.

The South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff were trying to figure out if more missiles might have been fired at the same time.

Recently, the US sent long-range B-1B and B-52 bombers to South Korea for a series of drills with their own warplanes.

This month, the allies are also getting ready for their biggest combined field training exercise in years. This is to counter the threat that Kim’s growing nuclear arsenal poses.

North Korea thinks that regular military drills between the U.S. and South Korea are practise for an invasion.

Kim told his troops to be ready to “overwhelmingly respond to and contain” any military action by the North’s enemies, who he said were making “all kinds of more frantic war preparation moves,” according to the official Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang.

He said that frontline units should improve their skills so they can do their two main “strategic missions,” which are to first stop war and then start it.

Late Friday, South Korea’s Unification Ministry told North Korea to stop “reckless nuclear and missile programmes and military provocations” that are making things worse. Vice spokesperson Lee Hyo-jung told reporters that North Korea should instead focus on helping people make a living and work towards peace on the Korean Peninsula.

The KCNA report didn’t say what kinds of weapons were used or how many rockets were launched on Thursday.

Some of the North’s newer short-range weapons aimed at South Korea are large multiple rocket launchers that blur the line between artillery and ballistic missile systems, according to experts.

North Korea calls some of its more advanced short-range weapons “tactical weapons,” which suggests that it wants to equip them with nuclear weapons with lower yields for use on the battlefield.

Experts say that by using this wording, North Korea is sending a message that it is willing to use these weapons in a conventional war to hurt South Korea and the United States, which have stronger conventional forces. The United States keeps about 28,000 troops in South Korea to help stop North Korea from attacking.

Kim’s comments were in line with a nuclear doctrine that the North put into law last year. This doctrine says that if the North thinks its leadership is in danger, even in a normal fight, it can launch a nuclear attack first.

North Korea’s official newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, showed photos of at least six rockets being fired from launch vehicles lined up in a coastal forest area that was not named.

Kim, some military officials, and his daughter, who is thought to be named Kim Ju Ae and be about 10 years old, watched the firings from an observation post.

Since she was first shown off at an ICBM test launch in November, she has been at several military events. Analysts think the events and the way she is described in state media are meant to show the world that he has no plans to give up his nuclear weapons, which he seems to see as the best way to ensure his survival and the continuation of his family’s dynastic rule.

North Korea has done more weapons tests in 2023, after having the most missile tests ever in 2022.

Experts say that North Korea is trying to show that it can attack both South Korea and the U.S. mainland with nuclear weapons by doing more tests and making more threats.

Analysts say that Kim’s campaign is meant to force the U.S. to accept the North as a nuclear power and to negotiate badly needed economic concessions from a strong position.

Since 2019, there has been no progress in talks between the U.S. and North Korea.

Between March 13 and 23, the U.S. and South Korean militaries will train at computer-simulated command posts and bring back their biggest springtime field exercises, which were last held in 2018.

Regular drills between the allies were stopped or cut back to help with diplomacy or because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they were started up again when diplomacy broke down and North Korea’s threats and weapons tests got worse.

Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of the North Korean leader and one of Pyongyang’s top foreign policy officials, said on Tuesday that her country is ready to take “quick, overwhelming action” if needed in response to the expanded drills by the allies.

She has said in the past that North Korea could use the Pacific Ocean as a shooting range, and she has hinted more than once that the North could test-fire an ICBM towards those waters on a standard ballistic trajectory, which would be one of the most dangerous weapons demonstrations North Korea has done so far.

Since 2017, all of North Korea’s ICBM tests have been done at a high angle to stay away from its neighbours’ land.