Kim urges N Korean experts to produce ‘powerful nuclear weapons’

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un has called on his country’s scientists to expand production of “weapon-grade nuclear materials” and build more powerful weapons, state media has reported.

Kim’s latest calls, a reiteration of an earlier promise to ramp up nuclear weapons production “exponentially”, came ahead of a United States Navy carrier strike group’s scheduled arrival in South Korea on Tuesday.

North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Tuesday that Kim, in a briefing with officials from his nuclear weapons institute, said that North Korea should prepare to use its nuclear weapons “anytime and anywhere”.

“We should never be satisfied with the work to consolidate the thoroughgoing response posture of our nuclear force and should continuously strive to strengthen nuclear force steadily,” Kim was quoted as saying by KCNA, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.

Kim called on his officials to “expand on a far-sighted way the production of weapon-grade nuclear materials for thoroughly implementing the plan … on increasing nuclear arsenals exponentially”. He also told his officials to “put spurs to continuing to produce powerful nuclear weapons”, KCNA reported.

North Korea last year declared itself an “irreversible” nuclear power and Kim recently called for an “exponential” increase in weapons production, including tactical nuclear weapons.

According to the KCNA report on Tuesday, Kim was also briefed on an IT-based integrated nuclear weapon management system called Haekbangashoe, which means “nuclear trigger”. The system’s accuracy, reliability and security were verified during recent drills simulating a nuclear counterattack, the news agency added.

South Korea’s Yonhap reported that North Korean media also released photographs for the first time of Kim inspecting what appeared to be tactical nuclear warheads known as the Hwasan-31.