North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has visited a frontline military detachment, state media reported, and reminded troops of their duty to fight a “sacred war” against any provocation by South Korea.
His visit and his recent resumption of “field guidance” to military units, precede annual war games by allies South Korea and the US. The military drills are scheduled to begin on Monday and continue until Aug. 31.
State news agency KCNA said Kim visited the same artillery unit that launched a deadly attack on South Korea’s Yeonpyeong island near the western sea border two years ago.
Kim inspected the unit on Mu island, which KCNA said was “stationed in the biggest hotspot in the southernmost part of the southwest front.”
“He ordered the servicepeople ... not to miss their golden chance to deal at once deadly counter-blows at the enemy if even a single shell is dropped on the waters or in the area where the sovereignty of the DPRK is exercised,” KCNA said of Kim’s guidance to his Democratic People’s Republic of Korea troops.
Kim also said the Korean People’s Army should then “lead the battle to a sacred war for national reunification, not confining it to a local war on the southwest region,” KCNA reported.
Pyongyang has periodically used the term “sacred war” to counter what it sees as a threat from the South and its key ally the US.
It has also branded this month’s military drills “an all-out war rehearsal” for an invasion of the North.
Seoul and Washington say the drill, which will mobilize more than 85,000 servicemen, is only for defensive purposes.
In February, the North raised its level of military alert after South Korean and US military staged live-fire artillery drills in the same area near the disputed sea border off the west coast.
The North’s shelling of Yeonpyeong island in November 2010 killed four people, including two civilians, and was the first attack on civilians since the end of the 1950-1953 Korean War. The two sides are technically still at war, having signed a truce rather than a peace treaty.
Kim has focused many of his trips since inheriting dynastic power on encouraging workers and promoting nationwide economic projects.
That prompted many East Asia watchers to speculate he might have given up on the military-first policies of his father, Kim Jong-il.
North Korea has recently threatened to reconsider several agreements with the US that call for Pyongyang’s concessions on its nuclear program in exchange for US humanitarian and energy aid, Foreign Policy magazine reported.
Citing two unnamed sources, the magazine said a hardening of North Korea’s position was made evident during a meeting last month in Singapore of mid-level North Korean officials and US foreign policy experts.
According to Foreign Policy, the North Koreans told US experts they were no longer interested in resurrecting the Feb. 29 agreement that called for US food aid in return to North Korean nuclear concessions and said they were reconsidering their previous agreements to eventually denuclearize as well.
The Feb. 29 agreement called for a moratorium on nuclear and missile testing, a return of international inspectors, and 240,000 tonnes of food aid, the report said.