North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has vowed to boost the country’s nuclear arsenal.
It came as the nation showed off developmental ballistic missiles at a military display on Thursday.
Photos released by state media showed trucks carrying what appeared to be a new submarine-launched ballistic missile, larger than the ones the country has previously tested.
It also published photos of Kim wearing a black fur hat and leather trench coat, gesturing from a podium as thousands of troops and civilian spectators filled Kim Il Sung Square in the capital Pyongyang.
Thursday’s parade was organised to celebrate a major ruling party meeting where the leader of the one-party state vowed maximum efforts to bolster his nuclear and missile programme that threatens Asian rivals and the US, to counter what he described as US hostility.
During the eight-day Workers’ Party congress that ended on Tuesday, Kim also revealed plans to salvage the nation’s economy amid US-led sanctions over his nuclear ambitions, pandemic-related border closures and natural disasters that wiped out crops.
The economic setbacks have left him little to show for his ambitious diplomacy with outgoing US president Donald Trump, which derailed over disagreements in exchanging sanctions relief and the North’s denuclearisation steps.
The latest comments mean President-elect Joe Biden, who previously called the North Korean leader a “thug”, faces an increase in tensions with the country.
State media also claimed that on display were solid-fuel weapons designed to be fired from land launchers, and missiles capable of “thoroughly annihilating enemies in a pre-emptive way outside (our) territory.”
The North has been developing submarine-launched ballistic missile systems for years. Acquiring an operational system would alarm its rivals and neighbors because missiles fired from submerged vessels are harder to detect in advance.
Kim Dong-yub, an analyst from Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies and a former military official who participated in inter-Korean military talks, said the reported new submarine missile could possibly be an engineering mock-up that would require further development before it's ready to be tested and deployed.
While Kim Jong-un during the congress vowed to develop nuclear-powered submarines capable of firing nuclear-armed ballistic missiles, it would take “considerable time” for the North to overcome financial and technological difficulties to acquire such systems, the analyst said.
South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said in a statement the country was studying the weapons displayed by the North but didn’t immediately release a detailed assessment.