North Korea Conducts Artillery Drills Amid Escalating Tensions over South Korea-US Military Training

Last Updated on March 8, 2024 8:31 am

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw artillery firing drills aimed at enhancing combat readiness, as reported by state media on Friday. The drills occurred just days after North Korea pledged corresponding military actions in response to what it perceives as an invasion rehearsal during the ongoing South Korea-US joint military training.

The artillery exercises on Thursday involved frontline units with weapons capable of reaching Seoul, the South Korean capital, according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Kim emphasized the need for artillery units to be proactive and execute “merciless and rapid strikes at the moment of their entry into an actual war,” as stated by KCNA.

North Korea’s forward-deployed long-range artillery guns pose a significant security threat to Seoul, a densely populated city located approximately 40 to 50 kilometers (25 to 30 miles) from the North Korean border.

The Defense Ministry of North Korea previously announced on Tuesday its intention to conduct “responsible military activities” in response to the annual South Korea-US military drills scheduled to conclude on March 14. Kim Jong Un had visited a western operational training ground on Wednesday, urging the enhancement of warfighting capabilities.

The South Korean-US joint exercises, which began on Monday, encompass computer-simulated command post training and 48 field exercises—double the number conducted the previous year.

North Korea has consistently viewed the South Korea-US military exercises as a significant security threat, characterizing them as preparations for an attack on the North. In contrast, officials from Seoul and Washington assert that their drills are defensive in nature.

Since 2022, North Korea has markedly increased its missile testing activities, part of efforts to develop more potent nuclear-capable weapons targeting the US mainland and South Korea. In response, the South Korean and US militaries have expanded their joint drills.

Experts suggest that North Korea’s recent actions might be geared towards showcasing a modernized arsenal, potentially seeking sanctions relief from the United States when diplomatic discussions resume. The coming months, marked by major elections in the United States and South Korea, could witness an escalation in North Korean weapons tests and heightened warlike rhetoric.

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