North Korea holds 'tactical nuclear' drills, warns US and South Korea of 'real nuclear crisis'

North Korea holds ‘tactical nuclear’ drills, warns US and South Korea of ‘real nuclear crisis’

North Korea over the weekend staged a “tactical nuclear attack virtual launch drill” and warned Washington and Seoul of a potential “real nuclear crisis,” North Korean state-run media reported Sunday.

Saturday’s virtual nuclear attacks, reported by Pyongyang’s KCNA state news agency, came just two days after U.S. and South Korean forces wrapped up their own major joint military exercises. Pyongyang said its nuclear drill was a direct response to those U.S.-South Korean exercises.

“The recklessness and danger of confrontational madness recently displayed by the U.S. and South Korean thugs is unprecedented in history,” KCNA said in its report. “In the early morning of Sept. 2, a tactical nuclear attack virtual launch drill was held to warn the enemy of a real nuclear crisis.”

KCNA said that “two long-range strategic cruise missiles equipped with a test combat unit simulating a nuclear combat unit were tested” as part of the exercise. Pyongyang said the drills were successful.

But South Korean officials had a different assessment.

“An analysis indicated that North Korea’s announcement this morning was exaggerated. Not all of them succeeded,” a senior official with South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff told the country’s Yonhap News Agency, referring to Pyongyang’s missile launches.

North Korea staged similarly provocative drills last week. Those exercises were “aimed at occupying the entire territory of the southern half [of Korea] by repelling the enemy’s sudden armed invasion and switching over to an all-out counterattack,” North Korean state-run media said.

The drills encompassed tactical nuclear strikes and the destruction of U.S. and South Korean command centers. They came amid the 10-day “Ulchi Freedom Shield” joint drills by South Korean and American forces, which started on Aug. 21 and concluded last week.

• Andrew Salmon contributed to this report.