In an apparent response to the joint military drills between South Korea and the US, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited a navy unit and inspected a cruise missile test aboard a warship, Yonhap news agency reported citing Pyongyang’s state media KCNA on Monday.
Kim inspected the Guards 2nd Surface Ship Flotilla of the East Sea Fleet of the navy of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), KCNA said, without disclosing the time of his visit.
He also watched the seamen on the patrol ship stage a drill, in which it test-launched “strategic” cruise missiles, verifying the ship’s “regular posture for mobilization and offensive ability.”
“At the drill aimed to reconfirm the combat function of the ship and the feature of its missile system and make the seamen skilled at carrying out the attack mission in actual war, the ship rapidly hit the target without even an error,” Yonhap news agency cited the KCNA report.
South Korea and the US kicked off the annual Ulchi Freedom Shield (UFS) exercise on Monday, featuring various contingency drills, such as the computer simulation-based command post exercise, concurrent field training and Ulchi civil defence drills. The exercise will run until August 31.
Notably, this development comes after the leaders of South Korea, Japan and the US — during their trilateral summit at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland last week — had reaffirmed their commitment towards “complete denuclearization” by North Korea in accordance with relevant UNSC resolutions and had urged Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
“Furthermore, we reaffirm our commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in accordance with relevant UNSC resolutions and urge the DPRK to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. We call on all UN Member States to fully implement all relevant UNSC resolutions. We strongly condemn the DPRK’s unprecedented number of ballistic missile launches, including multiple intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launches and conventional military actions that pose a grave threat to peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and beyond,” the joint statement read.
Meanwhile, Kim has vowed to strengthen the North’s navy to make it an “all-round and powerful” service group with improved combat efficiency and modern means of surface and underwater offensive and defensive capabilities, KCNA reported.
“North Korea will put spurs to the modernization of naval weapons and equipment including the building of powerful warships and the development of shipboard and underwater weapon systems,” he said.
The inspection came amid expectations that North Korea could carry out major provocations, such as the launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), in a bid to protest the allies’ joint military drills. The North has long denounced the Seoul-Washington military exercises as a rehearsal for an invasion, Yonhap news agency reported.
Kim has also called for a “drastic boost” of the country’s missile production capacity and war contingency preparations in an “offensive” manner during his latest visit to major munitions factories.