North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has replaced his military’s top general and called for increased weapons production, expansion of military drills, and preparations for the possibility of war, the country’s state media KCNA has reported.
Kim made the comments at a meeting of the Central Military Commission, which discussed plans for countermeasures to deter North Korea’s enemies, KCNA reported on Thursday without naming those enemies.
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South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency said on Thursday that North Korea appears “focused on flexing its military muscle”.
North Korea’s top general, Chief of the General Staff Pak Su Il was also “dismissed”, KCNA reported, without elaborating. He had served in his role for about seven months.
Pak was replaced by General Ri Yong Gil, who previously served as the country’s defence minister, as well as the top commander of its conventional troops. Ri had also previously served as the army chief of staff.
When Ri was replaced in 2016 his sacking and subsequent absence from official events in North Korea sparked speculation in South Korea that he had been executed. Ri reappeared a few months later when he was named to another senior post.
KCNA said the agenda of Wednesday’s meeting between Kim and the Central Military Commission was “the issue of making full war preparations” including “securing more powerful strike means” to ensure “perfect military readiness for a war”.
Kim called for “all the munitions industrial establishments to push ahead with the mass-production of various weapons and equipment”, the report said.
“He also called for actively conducting actual war drills to efficiently operate [the] newly deployed latest weapons and equipment,” it added.
According to KCNA, Kim set a target for expansion of the country’s weapons production capacity. The report did not provide details.
The call for increased arms production comes as the United States suspects North Korea of providing weapons to Russia for its war in Ukraine, including artillery shells, rockets and missiles.
Russia and North Korea have denied those claims.
Last week, Kim visited weapons factories where he called for more missile engines, artillery and other weapons to be built.
North Korea also held a large defence expo to coincide with a large military parade last month, during which Kim gave the visiting Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu a tour of the country’s newest and most advanced weaponry, including ballistic missiles and spy drones.
North Korea is set to stage a militia parade on September 9 to mark the 75th anniversary of the Day of the Foundation of the Republic.
The United States and South Korea are scheduled to hold their next military drills between August 21 and 24. North Korea claims such exercises are a threat to its security and are conducted in preparation for a future invasion of the north.