While visiting a facility that produces nuclear weapons, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said his country is prepared to use nuclear weapons “anytime and anywhere,” Bloomberg reported last week.
According to the North Korean state-run Central News Agency, Kim also reiterated his vow to increase his country’s nuclear arsenal to “defend the eternal security of the state” and bring “peace” to the region.
Kim’s visit comes after North Korea rolled out new nuclear-capable weapons in recent weeks and threatened an unprecedented response to the recent joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea.
Currently, it is estimated that North Korea has between 80 and 90 nuclear warheads, according to a paper released in January by the Korean Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul.
Kim visited the nuclear weapons facility on the same day that the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier group arrived in Busan as part of the effort to strengthen the combined military posture of South Korea and the US.
Pyongyang also raised tensions the last time a US Navy carrier group arrived in South Korea six months ago by firing a missile over Japan for the first time in five years.
While there have been no announcements of joint drills involving the USS Nimitz, the carrier group did conduct exercises with the South Korean Navy last Monday as part of the joint military drills known as Warrior Shield.
That same day, North Korea conducted two short-range ballistic missile tests, adding to hits recent testing that included two nuclear-capable ICBMs and around a dozen rockets that could be used to launch nuclear strikes on Japan and South Korea.
Last week, state media reported that North Korea successfully tested an underwater nuclear-capable drone that can cause a “radioactive tsunami.” However, South Korea’s Defense Ministry said it is doubtful of the claim.