SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to increase nuclear warhead production «exponentially» and build a more powerful intercontinental ballistic missile, state media reported Sunday, signaling growing animosity. greater with the United States, South Korea and others.

Kim’s statement at a key ruling party meeting was released hours after North Korea fired a ballistic missile into its eastern waters, entering 2023 with another weapons test following a record number of missile launches last year.

«The current situation requires our country to redouble its efforts to overwhelmingly strengthen our military power to safeguard our sovereignty, security, and basic national interest in dealing with the dangerous movements of the United States military and other hostile forces attacking us,» Kim said. . , according to the Korean Central News Agency.

KCNA quoted Kim as saying that North Korea is required to increase production «exponentially» in order to mass-produce tactical nuclear weapons.

He also said that Kim ordered the manufacture of a new type of ICBM with rapid retaliatory strike capability. Kim also reportedly said that North Korea plans to launch its first military spy satellite soon.

The South Korean military detected Sunday’s launch from the North’s capital region around 2:50 a.m., the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. He said the missile traveled about 250 miles before hitting the water between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff called the launch «a serious provocation» that harms peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and around the world. He said South Korea is closely monitoring North Korea’s moves in coordination with the United States and stands ready to deal with any provocation.

The US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement that the launch highlights «the destabilizing impact» of North Korea’s illegal weapons programs. He said US commitments to defend South Korea and Japan «remain steadfast.»

North Korea trial by fire more than 70 missiles last year. Some experts say the country is ultimately aiming to increase its stockpiles of weapons and increase pressure on rivals for concessions such as sanctions relief.

On Saturday, North Korea fired three short-range ballistic missiles into its eastern waters.

North Korean state media confirmed on Sunday that the country has conducted test firings of its super-large multiple rocket launcher to test the weapon’s capability. The Korean Central News Agency said three shells fired from the launcher accurately hit an island target off the country’s east coast. It said North Korea fired another projectile from the launcher into its eastern waters on Sunday.

Weapons fired from the launcher are classified by outside experts as ballistic missiles due to their trajectories, ranges, and other characteristics.

North Korea’s missile launch for the second day in a row could be a response to rival South Korea’s recent rocket test related to its plan to set up space surveillance to better monitor North Korea. On Friday, the South Korean military said it has tested launching a solid-fuel rocket, a type of space launch vehicle that it plans to use to launch its first spy satellite into orbit in the coming years.

Animosities between the two rival Koreas have deepened since early last week, when South Korea accused North Korea of ​​flying drones across the countries’ heavily fortified border for the first time in five years and sent in its own drones. northward.

South Korea acknowledged that it did not shoot down any of the five North Korean drones it said were found south of the border. But South Korea has promised reinforce its air defense network and be tough on future North Korean provocations.