Kim watches North Korea military drill alongside masked officers

North has stepped up military activity and resumed missile launches since collapse of Hanoi summit a year ago.

North Korea
North Korea's state media on Tuesday released photos of the country's leader, Kim Jong Un watching a drill by the army's long-range artillery sub-unit [KCNA via Yonhap and EPA]

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised an earlier live-fire rocket artillery exercise to confirm his military’s combat readiness and “further kindle the flames of training revolution,” state media said on Tuesday.

The report by the Korean Central News Agency came a day after South Korea’s military detected what appeared to be two short-range ballistic launches of projectiles that landed in the North’s eastern sea.

Pyongyang’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper published photos of rockets soaring out of multiple rocket launchers and an island target buried in smoke.

Kim, dressed in a leather coat with a black fur hat, smiled as he watched the drills from an observation post. Other military officials wore black masks in an apparent reflection of the country’s campaign against the coronavirus although Kim himself did not.

Analysts have speculated North Korea reduced training and other activities with large troop gatherings to reduce the chance of the virus spreading in its military. North Korea has not revealed if it has any cases of the illness, although state media has hinted at some people being quarantined while showing symptoms.

‘Powerful military’

KCNA said North Korean troops “proudly demonstrated” accurate marksmanship with their long-range artillery pieces, but did not elaborate on the weapons involved.

“(Kim) expressed great satisfaction with the fact that the artillerymen are prepared to make rapid reaction to any circumstances and perfectly carry out their firepower combat duties,” the agency said.

“Saying that the victory of the socialist cause is guaranteed by the powerful military force and a war deterrence, he said the People’s Army should keep full combat-readiness to protect the sky, land and sea of the country from any encroachment.”

The report did not mention any direct comments by Kim on the United States or South Korea.

Kim Dong-yub, an analyst from Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies, said the weapons involved would have included a “super large” multiple rocket launcher the North first revealed last year, judging by the flight data announced by Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Since the collapse of a second summit last year between Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump, North Korea resumed ballistic activity and weapons launches to expand its military capabilities. Kim had entered the new year vowing to bolster his nuclear deterrent in the face of what he said were “gangster-like” US sanctions and pressure.

Source: AP