North Korean leader orders military to raise war readiness

Seoul, South Korea –

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered his military to expand combat drills and increase war readiness as he seeks to escalate an already provocative weapons demonstration in the North. context of deepening tensions with neighboring countries and Washington.

Kim presided over a meeting of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers’ Party on Monday and encouraged the armed forces to perform “eternal feats” and display “unparalleled military might.” ” to usher in a new stage of development, the official Korean Central News Agency reported on Tuesday.

The meeting comes amid signs North Korea is planning a military parade that could be an occasion to showcase the latest hardware from its burgeoning missile and nuclear weapons program. itself, which is worrying the United States and its allies in Asia.

The committee members, who represent Kim’s top military leadership, discussed a series of tasks aimed at creating “major change” in the military, including “constantly expanding” and intensifying combat operations and maneuvers” and “more seriously perfecting war preparedness”. the agency said.

The committee also discussed unspecified organizational changes to “fundamentally improve and strengthen” military affairs, and state media photos of the meeting showed a congressional flag. represents a possible new division known as the “rocket directorate”.

North Korea marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army on Wednesday and may celebrate with a military parade in Pyongyang.

Lee Sung-jun, a spokesman for South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a briefing that the South Korean military had detected a “significant increase in personnel and facilities” at the sites. related to military parade drills, but declined to share a specific assessment of the timing. event will take place.

Lee said the South Korean military is closely monitoring developments regarding North Korea’s possible establishment of a new military agency related to missiles, but did not provide further details. Some analysts say the new division could handle the development of nuclear warheads and ballistic systems.

Kim’s comments during the military meeting were the latest warning from Pyongyang that it was preparing to step up military exercises after a record year of missile tests. The warnings are in part a response to the US expanding military exercises with South Korea, which allies say are aimed at countering the growing North Korean threat.

Last week, North Korea threatened to respond to US military moves with “the most overwhelming nuclear force” as it denounced US plans to expand joint military exercises with South Korea and deploy military assets. more advanced aircraft such as bombers and aircraft carriers to the region.

North Korea has launched more than 70 ballistic missiles by 2022, including nuclear-capable weapons designed to hit targets in South Korea or reach the continental United States. It also conducted a series of launches that it described as simulated nuclear strikes on South Korean and US targets in response to expanded US military exercises with South Korea. , which has shrunk under the Trump administration.

During a major political conference in December, Kim called for an “exponential increase” in the country’s nuclear warheads, mass production of tactical nuclear weapons aimed at South Korea, and development of nuclear weapons. more powerful intercontinental ballistic missiles that could reach the US homeland.

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 concessions. economic and political from a position of strength.

But there are also signs that the price to pay for Kim’s growing nuclear ambitions is mounting. North Korean state media on Monday said the ruling Workers’ Party planned to hold a plenary meeting of the powerful Central Committee later this month to discuss the “urgent task” of the improve agricultural production in the context of an increasingly isolated economy.

Some experts say the country’s food insecurity may be at its worst since the 1990s when a devastating famine killed hundreds of thousands of people.

Diplomacy between Washington and Pyongyang has stalled since 2019, with the two sides still at odds over US-led economic sanctions against North Korea and its nuclear programme.

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