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(2nd LD) N. Korean leader inspects island attack training

All Headlines 14:08 February 21, 2015

(ATTN: UPDATES with S. Korean government's assessment, Pyongyang's criticism of Pentagon chief in last 6 paras)

SEOUL, Feb. 21 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has inspected an artillery and landing exercise by front-line units deployed near the Yellow Sea, Pyongyang's media reported Saturday.

The drill, joined by artillery forces of the 4th Corp. and island defense units, focused on training for "striking and seizing an island," said the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). The 4th Corp. led the North's shelling of a South Korean border island, Yeonpyeong, in November 2010, which killed four South Korean marines and civilians and wounded more than a dozen others.

Conducted at the direct instruction of Kim, the main aim of the latest training was to prepare for a fight against the United States, it added.

"The entire army should make their training more intense, as the anti-Japanese guerrillas did in Mount Paektu, to prepare all soldiers as stalwart combatants and turn all units into an iron-willed guards unit and thus bring the anti-U.S. confrontation to the final conclusion by crushing the enemies promptly in case they pounce upon the DPRK," Kim was quoted as saying. The DPRK is the acronym for the North's formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The Rodong Sinmun, a newspaper published by the ruling Workers' Party, also carried a story, coupled with related photos, on Kim's so-called field guidance.

The pictures showed the firing of multiple rockets and Kim, in black coat, watching the exercise through binoculars. A tablet PC was seen on his table at a command post.

He was accompanied by Hwang Pyong-so, director of the general political bureau of the North's military, Defense Minister Hyon Yong-chol and several other senior military officials.

The North's media did not specify the timing of the training and its venue. The reports came a couple of days after Lunar New Year's Day, one of the biggest annual celebrations for Koreans.

The South Korean government said the live-fire training was held on Friday afternoon, in which Silkworm anti-ship missiles, SA-2 surface-to-air missiles and 122mm self-propelled artillery were mobilized.

The Chinese-made Silkworm missile has a range of up to around 95 kilometers, which means Seoul and the nearby Gyeonggi Province are within its reach.

The North is known to have more than 180 SA-2s that can fly as far as about 48 kilometers

"The North Korean military seems to have conducted the island strike and landing exercise this time with South Korea's western border islands in mind," despite Kim Jong-un's talk of the U.S. threat, a source at the South's defense ministry said.

Meanwhile, the North's Rodong Sinmun took a swipe at the new Pentagon chief, Ashton Carter, for his recent remarks that the communist nation's intercontinental ballistic missiles pose a direct threat to his country.

The newspaper called Carter a "war lunatic," accusing him of trying to escalate tension and seeking a cause for deploying the THAAD missile defense system on the Korean Peninsula.

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