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North Korea simulates tactical nuclear strike

Pyongyang said its latest missile launch, overseen by Kim Jong-un, practiced a "counterattack" on a "major enemy target"

North Korea has declared that it fired a missile "tipped with a test warhead simulating nuclear payload" as part of a two-day drill over the weekend, demonstrating the country's firepower and readiness to respond to any "reckless moves" amid joint military exercises on the peninsula by South Korean and US forces.

"It is impossible to practically deter war with the mere fact that our country possesses nuclear weapons," state-run news agency KCNA quoted North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as saying on Sunday. "It is only when the North is fully equipped with a nuclear attack posture that it can carry out its important strategic mission of deterring war."

Kim attended Sunday morning's missile launch along with his daughter Ju-ae. KCNA called the drill "virtual comprehensive tactical training for nuclear counterattack." The first day of the exercise, on Saturday, included testing of "the reliability of the command, management, control and operation system for tactical nuclear forces."

Those capabilities were put to the test in "various hypothetical emergency situations," KCNA added, practicing "the order of action to quickly move on to a nuclear attack while inspecting the accuracy of nuclear attack order and reception procedures, nuclear weapon handling order and operation procedures in accordance with different nuclear attack plans from a strict safety standpoint."

The ballistic missile was equipped with a mock nuclear warhead and was launched from Pyongan Province. It allegedly traveled 800 kilometers before being "accurately" detonated 800 meters above its target off the peninsula's eastern coast. KCNA noted that the test was conducted amid a "tense situation" with the large-scale exercises being conducted by Seoul and Washington.

The launch marked North Korea's fourth "warning shot" in the past week. A US B-1B strategic bomber returned to the peninsula on Sunday, making a "show of force against North Korea," according to South Korea's Yonhap News.

Seoul's joint drills with the US, which began on March 13 and will run through March 23, are the largest exercises by the two allies in at least five years. Pyongyang has repeatedly condemned such war games as rehearsals for an invasion of North Korea and said last month that they could be considered a "declaration of war."