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North Korea Rallies 800,000 Citizens for Military Showdown

North Korea Rallies 800,000 Citizens for Military Showdown

North Korea asserts that approximately 800,000 citizens volunteered to join or re-enlist in the country’s military to combat the United States, as reported by Pyongyang’s state newspaper on Saturday. On Friday alone, about 800,000 students and workers across the nation expressed their desire to enlist or re-enlist in the military in response to the US. This claim follows North Korea’s Thursday launch of the Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) as a countermeasure to ongoing US-South Korea military drills.

The ICBM launch occurred just hours before South Korea’s President traveled to Tokyo for a summit addressing strategies to counter the nuclear-armed North. The North’s ballistic missiles are banned under United Nations Security Council resolutions, and the launch faced condemnation from Seoul, Washington, and Tokyo. South Korean and American forces initiated 11 days of joint exercises, called Freedom Shield 23, on Monday. These large-scale drills, unseen since 2017, aim to counter the growing threats from North Korea.

North Korea. War Machine Ready?

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un accused the US and South Korea of escalating tensions with their military exercises. In February, Kim ordered his military to expand combat exercises and bolster war preparedness amid escalating tensions with neighboring countries and Washington. During a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Military Commission, Kim urged the armed forces to perform “ever-victorious feats” and display “matchless military strength” to usher in a new phase of development.

The commission discussed various tasks to induce “great change” in the military, such as “constantly expanding and intensifying operation and combat drills” and “more strictly perfecting war preparedness.” Kim supervised a live-fire artillery drill simulating an attack on a South Korean airfield, calling for his troops to be prepared to respond to the enemies’ “frantic war preparation moves.” This statement likely refers to the largest US-South Korea military exercises in years.

North Korean state media reported on Friday that South Korea’s military detected the North firing at least one short-range ballistic missile toward the sea near the western coastal city of Nampo. South Korea and the US are preparing for their largest combined military training exercise in years, countering the growing threat of Kim’s nuclear arsenal. Despite the North’s deepening economic isolation and pandemic-related challenges, Kim has aggressively expanded the nation’s nuclear capabilities.

Overwhelming Response

Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency reported that Kim urged his troops to be prepared to “overwhelmingly respond to and contain” their enemies’ military actions. He emphasized that frontline units should focus on their two main “strategic missions,” deterring war and taking the initiative in war. The South Korean and US militaries commenced their largest joint military exercises in years on Monday. These exercises, the Freedom Shield 23 and Warrior Shield FTX, signal that North Korea is likely to conduct provocative weapons testing activities during the US-South Korean drills. Last week, Kim ordered his troops to be ready to repel their rivals’ “frantic war preparation moves.”