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(LEAD) N.K. leader orders more nuke tests, readiness for nuclear attacks

All Headlines 08:34 March 11, 2016

(ATTN: REWRITES headline, first 3 paras; UPDATES with more info from para 6)

SEOUL, March 11 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered his officials to get ready to carry out nuclear attacks and conduct more nuclear tests, the North's state media said Friday, raising tensions on the divided peninsula.

The North's leader stressed the need to further develop nuclear weapons and diversify the means for delivering nuke warheads so as to "make nuclear strikes at the enemies from anywhere on the ground, in the air, at sea and underwater," the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

"He gave militant tasks to conduct more nuclear explosion tests to estimate the destructive power of the newly produced nuclear warheads and other tests to bolster up the nuclear attack capability," it said.

Kim made the remarks while watching a ballistic rocket launch drill, the KCNA said without disclosing when the drill took place.

A day earlier, North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea apparently in protest against ongoing joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States.

Earlier this week, the North's leader said his country has made nuclear warheads small enough to be mounted on ballistic missiles. Seoul's defense ministry raised doubts about the North's claims.

He has also ordered his military to make nuclear weapons ready for "pre-emptive attacks" against Seoul and Washington at a moment's notice.

North Korea has made efforts to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching as far as the U.S. mainland, and the country has insisted that it entered the technological phase to miniaturize and even diversify its nuclear bombs.

In recent days, the North has ratcheted up its belligerent rhetoric in a fit of anger in response to tougher sanctions by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and Seoul's unilateral punitive measures against it.

Last week, the UNSC adopted a new sanctions resolution punishing the North for its Jan. 6 nuclear test and Feb. 7 long-range rocket launch.

The North said its long-range rocket launch was to send a satellite into orbit, but Seoul and Washington view it as a cover for a banned test of ballistic missile technology.

Experts say long-range rockets and intercontinental ballistic missiles are basically the same, differing only in payload.

Kim's entourage included Hwang Pyong-so, director of the general political bureau of the Korean People's Army (KPA), the KCNA said.

pbr@yna.co.kr

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
(END)

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