North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has also ordered steps to be taken to “enhance the operational capabilities of the frontline units.”

Kim also ordered steps to be taken to “enhance the operational capabilities of the frontline units,” KCNA said.
Kim also ordered steps to be taken to “enhance the operational capabilities of the frontline units,” KCNA said. (Reuters)

North Korea has discussed assigning additional operational duties to its frontline armed units at a key military meeting, state media said, a suggestion the country may want to deploy battlefield nuclear weapons targeting rival South Korea along the two countries' tense border.

The discussion comes as South Korea officials said North Korea has finished preparation for its first nuclear test in five years as part of its possible efforts to build a warhead to be mounted on short range weapons capable of hitting targets in South Korea.

During an ongoing meeting of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers' Party on Wednesday, leader Kim Jong Un and other top military officers discussed “the work of additionally confirming the operation duties of the frontline units of the Korean People’s Army and modifying the operation plans,” according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Kim also ordered steps to be taken to “enhance the operational capabilities of the frontline units,” KCNA said.

READ MORE: North Korea test-fires multiple 'short-range ballistic missiles'

'Tactical nukes'

In April, when North Korea test-fired a new type of "tactical guided weapon,” it said the weapon has “great significance in drastically improving the firepower of the frontline long range artillery units, enhancing the efficiency in the operation of (North Korea’s) tactical nukes and diversification of their firepower missions.”

Its use of the words “tactical nukes” suggested the weapon is likely a short-range weapons system armed with a nuclear warhead. Some experts said at the time that North Korea intended to deploy such weapons threatening key facilitates in South Korea, including US military bases there.

Later in April, Kim said North Korea could preemptively use its nuclear weapons if threatened, saying his nukes would “never be confined to the single mission of war deterrent” in situations where the North faces external threats to its “fundamental interests.”

READ MORE: South Korea successfully launches first indigenous space rocket

Potential consequences

Wednesday was the second-day session of the commission meeting. KCNA said the commission continues its discussion on the presented agenda items, indicating the meeting would continue on Thursday.

Earlier this year, North Korea test-launched a spate of missiles whose potential ranges place both the US mainland and its Asian allies like South Korea and Japan within striking distances. Some experts say North Korea wants to modernise its weapons systems and boost its leverage in future negotiations with the United States to win sanctions relief and other concessions.

South Korean and US officials have warned North Korea to face consequences if it goes ahead with a nuclear test. But the divisions between permanent members of the UN Security Council make the prospects for fresh punitive international sanctions on North Korea unclear. Russia and China this year vetoed US sponsored resolutions that would have increased sanctions, insisting Washington should focus on reviving dialogue.

Source: AP