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(LEAD) N. Korea readying assault drill on replica of S. Korean presidential office: military

All Headlines 16:43 April 27, 2016

(ATTN: RECASTS headline; UPDATES throughout; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, April 27 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is preparing to launch a large-scale artillery assault drill on a replica of the South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae in a move to fan cross-border tensions in the runup to a rare congress of its ruling party, the military here said Wednesday.

About 30 artillery pieces have been brought to a training range just outside of Pyongyang where a replica of Cheong Wa Dae, about half its actual size, was set up in early April, a Joint Chiefs of Staff official said.

The types of artillery cannot be identified because they are covered up, he said, citing satellite surveillance results.

"The North is likely to conduct an actual exercise in the near future," according to the official.

The move is intended to instill animosity among North Koreans toward Seoul's leadership and to tighten internal unity ahead of the congress of the Workers' Party of Korea set to start on May 6, he noted.

In a string of warlike rhetoric, the North has repeatedly threatened to launch strikes on the presidential office and South Korean state agencies.

In the latest threat on April 5, North Korea released a computer-animated video showing Cheong Wa Dae being bombed.

The forthcoming congress, the party's highest-level political guidance body and the first of its kind in more than 30 years, is likely to center on cementing leader Kim Jong-un's grip on power, which he inherited from his father and grandfather.

The country is also highly likely to carry out an additional nuclear test in the near future in a bid to up the military ante to mark the high-profile event.


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