Japan: Siren sounds as North Korea fires missile overhead
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Kim Jong-un appears to have put the North Korea on a war footing after bragging of the Hermit State’s “matchless military strength” – and urging its military to prepare to “perform ever-victorious feats”. Coming a week after a foreign ministry spokesman warned Washington PyongYang would respond to any US military moves with “the most overwhelming nuclear force”, the Supreme Leader’s latest remarks underscore ongoing tensions with South Korea which analysts fear could eventually boil over.
Kim chaired a meeting of the Central Military Commission, which called on the nation’s military to expand combat drills, state media reported today.
KNCA said military commanders pushed for “constantly expanding and intensifying the operation and combat drills of the Korean People’s Army to cope with the prevailing situation and more strictly perfecting the preparedness for war”.
At the same meeting, Kim ordered his armed forces to “perform ever-victorious feats” and demonstrate “matchless military strength,” the report claimed.
The commission also discussed unspecified organisational changes to “fundamentally improve and strengthen” military affairs, and state media photos of the meeting showed a flag representing a possibly new department called the “missile general bureau”.
The gathering, held on Monday, marked the North Korean leader’s first public appearance in roughly 40 days.
In the past, lengthy absences have led to intense speculation about his health, and even whether he was still alive – but there appears little reason to doubt
Pyongyang has shown little sign of scaling back on its fiery rhetoric in recent months following more than 70 ballistic missile launches last year.
In a year-end address, Kim demanded an “an exponential increase” of the country’s nuclear arsenal and ordered the mass production of lower-yield tactical nuclear weapons, designed to be used on the battlefield.
Officials in Seoul and Washington believe the North is preparing for another nuclear test, its seventh overall and first since 2017.
North Korea is due to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the founding of its army tomorrow, and observers anticipating a military parade which may showcase new materiel.
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Lee Sung-jun, spokesperson of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a briefing that the South Korean military has detected a “significant increase in personnel and vehicles” in areas related to parade rehearsals, but declined to share a specific assessment on when the event would take place.
Lee said the South Korean military was closely monitoring developments related to North Korea’s possible creation of a new military bureau related to missiles, but did not offer further details.
Some analysts say that the new department could possibly handle the development of nuclear warheads and ballistic systems.
Kim’s comments from the military meeting are the latest warning from Pyongyang that it’s preparing to intensify its military demonstrations following a record-breaking year in missile testing. The warnings are in part a response to the United States’ expanding military drills with South Korea, which the allies have said are aimed at countering the North’s evolving threat.
Experts say Kim’s weapons tests and threats are aimed at forcing Washington to accept the idea of North Korea as a nuclear power, which Pyongyang sees as a way to negotiate economic and political concession from a position of strength.
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Diplomacy between Washington and Pyongyang has been gridlocked since 2019, with the two sides remaining at odds over US-led economic sanctions against the North and the North’s nuclear program.
The sabre-rattling comes against a backdrop of a food shortage which may be North Korea’s most serious since a famine which swept the country in the 1990s.
Earlier this week KCNA said the Workers’ Party politburo would hold a meeting later this month to consider ways of ramping up food production.
The report said: “It is a very important and urgent task to establish the correct strategy for the development of agriculture.”
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