Seoul, December 31: North Korea aims to launch three additional spy satellites and produce more nuclear weapons next year, as it is accelerating war readiness against various forms of US military "threats", Pyongyang's state media said on Sunday. According to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korean leader Kim Jong-un set forth the goal as he wrapped up five days of the plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea on Saturday, Yonhap news agency reported.

"Based on the experience of successfully launching and operating the first spy satellite in 2023 in the space development sector, the task of launching three more spy satellites in 2024 was unveiled and all-out measures to spur the development of the space science technology were discussed," the KCNA said. North Korea’s Kim Jong Un Planning To Launch Three More Military Spy Satellites Next Year.

The North successfully put a military spy satellite, named the Malligyong-1, into orbit on November 21 after two failed attempts in May and August. There are suspicions that North Korea might have received technical support from Russia in return for its arms supplies for use in Moscow's war in Ukraine.

Outlining detailed tasks in the defense sector for next year, Kim put priority on stepped-up efforts to build more nuclear weapons. "We need to swiftly respond to a possible nuclear crisis and mobilise all physical means, including nuclear force, in a bid to accelerate preparations for the great event of putting the entire territory of South Korea under our control," Kim said. North Korea Says Its Spy Satellite Accurately Entered Orbit.

He also ordered the Navy to enhance its military capabilities and called for developing powerful unmanned combat equipment, such as spy and attack drones, and means for electronic warfare, the KCNA said. Earlier this year, the North's leader ordered an expanded production of weapons-grade nuclear materials for an exponential increase in the country's nuclear arsenal.

At a key party congress in 2021, North Korea unveiled key defense projects, including the development of a nuclear-powered submarine and multiple nuclear warheads, and the launch of a military spy satellite.

In July, North Korea unveiled two types of new reconnaissance and multi-purpose attack drones at an arms exhibition and a military parade. The North sent five drones across the border with South Korea in December 2022, with one of them penetrating a no-fly zone close to Seoul's presidential office.

In regard to inter-Korean ties, Kim said he will no longer consider South Korea a counterpart for reconciliation and unification, saying Seoul has declared the North as a main enemy. The Workers' Party has also concluded that unification with South Korea is not possible, Kim was quoted as saying.

Calling for a "fundamental change" in dealing with South Korea, the North's leader said that inter-Korean relations have become those of "two hostile countries" or "countries engaged in state of combat."

Relations between South and North Korea remained sharply strained this year, as North Korea focused on advancing its nuclear and missile programs, including the launch of solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The North's leader vowed an "offensive and ultra-powerful" stance against the U.S. in 2024, denouncing Washington's deployment of strategic assets to the Korean Peninsula and its military drills with Seoul.

"If the US and the South pursue military confrontations with us, we will not hesitate to take a critical action against them with our nuclear deterrence," Kim said.

North Korea has used an increase in joint military drills between the US and South Korea and Washington's move to deepen security cooperation with its Asian allies, Seoul and Tokyo, as an excuse for boosting its weapons tests and provocations. South Korea's unification ministry "strongly" condemned North Korea for unveiling the plan to advance nuclear and missile programmes while expressing its blatant animosity against South Korea.

The ministry said North Korea is expected to step up preparations to develop strategic weapons and carry out weapons tests next year. "North Korea is likely to stage any form of provocations next year to flex its military muscle as its leader directly ordered the great event of putting the entire territory of South Korea under its control," it said.

In September, North Korea amended the constitution to enshrine the policy of strengthening its nuclear force. Last year, the country enacted a new nuclear law authorising the preemptive use of nuclear arms, calling its status as a nuclear state "irreversible."

At last year's party plenary meeting, Kim called South Korea an "undoubted enemy" and called for an "exponential" increase in the country's nuclear arsenal and the development of tactical nuclear weapons.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Dec 31, 2023 05:32 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website