North Korea launched a drone attack on a simulated South Korean target today, in an operation personally supervised by Kim Jong-un.
The drone strike successfully shot down a target mimicking a South Korean cruise missile, according to the state-controlled KCNA news agency.
The reports come as North Korea steps up its military exercises in response to what it regards as “hostile” activity by South Korea and the United States. Those two countries have been conducting joint military drills since Pyongyang was sanctioned by the UN Security Council for conducting a nuclear test in February.
It has not been independently verified that North Korea possesses drones, although a South Korean news report last year said it believed the country had obtained 1970s-era US target drones from Syria. It is thought these could easily have been developed into attack drones.
KCNA today said: “The (drone) planes were assigned the flight route and time with the targets in South Korea in mind, Kim Jong-un said, adding with great satisfaction that they were proved to be able to mount (a) super-precision attack on any enemy targets”.
It is extremely rare for KCNA to specify the day on which Kim attended a drill.
The report also stated that a rocket defence unit had successfully shot down a target that mimicked an “enemy” Tomahawk cruise missile.
North Korea has said it has abrogated an armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War and threatened a nuclear attack on the United States.
Although North Korea currently lacks the technology to carry out a mainland US attack, the country said it would deploy anti-missile batteries in Alaska to counter any threat.
The KCNA report said that Kim, 30, the third of his line to rule North Korea, would give orders to destroy military installations in any war zone and also US bases in the Pacific if the North was attacked. North Korean missiles are believed to have the capacity to hit bases in Japan and on the US island territory of Guam.
Earlier today, KCNA denounced US moves that it said were aimed at staging a “preemptive nuclear strike” on North Korea, citing the deployment of a US B-52 bomber over the Korean peninsula as well as what it said were nuclear-armed submarines. The U.S. and South Korea say their drills are defensive.
Tensions have mounted on the Korean peninsula since North Korea staged its first successful long-range rocket launch in December. It followed this up with its third nuclear weapons test in February.
Pyongyang is barred from developing missile and nuclear-related technology under UN sanctions imposed after previous nuclear tests.
Earlier today, China's new leader, Xi Jinping, said he would offer to promote “reconciliation and cooperation” on the Korean peninsula.
Most military experts say that the North will likely not launch an all-out war against South Korea and its US ally due to its outdated weaponry.
Pyongyang is viewed as more likely to stage an attack along a disputed sea border between the two countries as it did in 2010 when it shelled a South Korean island, killing four people.
Such a move would provide a major test for new South Korean President Park Geun-hye who took office pledging closer ties with the North if it abandoned its nuclear push.