North Korea holds artillery drills, likely as a response to South Korea-US military exercises

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

North Korea’s artillery drills on Thursday involved units capable of reaching Seoul, the South Korean capital, according to state media.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw artillery drills aimed at enhancing combat readiness, state media reported Friday.

The drills, which took place on Thursday, involved frontline artillery units capable of striking the South Korean capital, Seoul. Kim emphasized the need for these units to be prepared for rapid and decisive action in a real war scenario.

North Korea views the ongoing South Korean-U.S. military exercises as a rehearsal for invasion and has vowed to take corresponding military measures. The North’s long-range artillery guns, positioned near the border with South Korea, pose a significant security threat to Seoul, a city with a population of 10 million.

In response to the military drills, North Korea’s Defense Ministry announced plans to conduct unspecified “responsible military activities.” Kim’s visit to a western training ground on Wednesday underscored his call for bolstering the country’s war fighting capabilities.

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The joint South Korean-U.S. military exercises began on Monday and include computer-simulated command post training and 48 field exercises, twice as many as last year.

North Korea perceives these exercises as a significant security threat, viewing them as preparations for attacking the North. However, officials from Seoul and Washington maintain that the drills are defensive in nature.

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

Experts believe that North Korea’s accelerated weapons development is aimed at achieving sanctions relief from the United States through diplomatic means. They suggest that North Korea may conduct more weapons tests and escalate its aggressive rhetoric this year, especially as the United States and South Korea prepare for major elections.

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