North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has supervised artillery firing exercises aimed at increasing combat readiness, state media reported this weekend, days after his country promised to take appropriate military measures against the South Korean-American military training underway, which is considered an invasion rehearsal.

According to the North’s Korean Central News Agency, front-line artillery units participated in Saturday’s exercises, whose weapons placed Seoul, the South Korean capital, in their attack radius.

Kim said artillery units must “take the initiative with rapid and ruthless strikes at the time of their entry into a real war,” KCNA said.

 

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff reported Sunday that it had detected North Korea firing artillery in waters off its western coast the previous day. South Korea will give a forceful response in case of provocation by North Korea.

The long-range artillery guns deployed by North Korea pose a serious threat to the security of Seoul, a city of 10 million people located about 40-50 kilometers from the border with North Korea.

North Korea’s Defense Ministry said Saturday it would carry out unspecified “responsible military activities” in response to annual South Korean-US military exercises that began last Monday. Kim visited an operational training camp in the west of the country and called for strengthening combat capabilities.

North Korea conducts artillery drills

The 11-day South Korean-US drills consist of computer-simulated command post training and 48 types of field exercises, double that of last year.

North Korea considers the South Korean-US military exercises a serious threat to its security, calling them preparation to launch attacks against the North. Officials in Seoul and Washington have claimed their exercises are defensive in nature.

North Korea has dramatically accelerated its missile tests since 2022 as part of its efforts to develop more powerful nuclear weapons aimed at the US mainland and South Korea. The South Korean and US militaries have expanded their drills in response.

Experts say North Korea likely intends to use a modernized arsenal to gain sanctions relief from the United States when diplomacy resumes. They say North Korea could increase its weapons testing and warmongering rhetoric this year when the United States and South Korea hold important elections.

Hyung Jin Kim