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N. Korean leader guides military drills of paratroopers, calls for war preparations

March 16, 2024 - 15:34 By Yonhap
This photo, carried by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on Saturday shows the North's leader Kim Jong-un (left) and his daughter, believed to be named Ju-ae, guiding military drills of air-borne units of the Korean People's Army the previous day. (Yonhap)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has guided military drills involving the country's paratroopers and called for full preparations for war, state media said Saturday, in an apparent protest of the latest joint military exercise staged by South Korea and the United States.

The training of air-borne military units held Friday was aimed at inspecting paratroopers' readiness to be mobilized for any military operation plan in "surprise wartime circumstances," according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Kim stressed that the "primary duty" of the Korean People's Army (KPA) is to make full preparations for war.

"He underlined the need for all the service personnel of the KPA to firmly arm themselves with the strong will against the enemy and thoroughgoing outlook on war that they have to change history without fail if a war breaks out," the KCNA said.

Photos carried by the KCNA showed Kim being accompanied by his teen daughter, believed to be named Ju-ae, in inspecting the drills.

Seoul and Washington wrapped up the annual Freedom Shield exercise on Thursday after staging it for 11 days to strengthen deterrence against North Korea's nuclear and missile threats.

In response, the North's leader guided military exercises, including artillery firing drills and training involving tank units.

The North's leader has defined inter-Korean ties as relations between "two states hostile to each other" and vowed to control the South Korean territory in the event of war.

Meanwhile, the North Korean leader attended a ceremony marking the completion of building a greenhouse farm with his daughter on Friday, according to a separate dispatch by the KCNA.

The Kangdong Greenhouse Farm, built on the site of a military airfield near Pyongyang, is the third modernized farm built in recent years to grow vegetables amid a chronic food shortage. North Korea built similar greenhouse farms in Hamgyong Province in 2019 and 2022.

The latest inspection marked Ju-ae's third public activity in the economy-related sector since she first made a public appearance in November 2022. She mostly accompanied her father to military events.

The North's media used the rare expression of "the great persons of guidance" in an apparent reference to Kim Jong-un and Ju-ae.

"If the expression means Kim and his daughter, it would be the first time that she been given the status of a great guide (of the country)," said Yang Moo-jin, president of the University of North Korean Studies.

"But given that there has been no personality cult about her and her name has not been publicly mentioned, it does not appear that she has been ultimately anointed as Kim Jong-un's successor," he added.

The National Intelligence Service, South Korea's spy agency, said it sees Ju-ae as Kim Jong-un's "most likely successor," citing her public activities and the level of the North's respect toward her. (Yonhap)