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N.K. leader conducts first inspection of military unit this year

All News 09:09 January 19, 2017

SEOUL, Jan. 19 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited a military unit, Pyongyang's state media said Thursday, marking his first inspection of the country's defense establishment in the new year.

The North's leader toured the Korean People Army's Unit 233, stressing the need to boost its combat preparations, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said without revealing the date of his inspection.

Kim was satisfied that soldiers are keeping weapons and combat equipment "always ready to go into action, thinking only of combat readiness awake or asleep," according to the KCNA.

The tour comes amid North Korea's threat to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

N.K. leader conducts first inspection of military unit this year - 1

The North's leader said in his New Year's message that the country has entered the final stage of its preparations to launch an ICBM.

Pyongyang has warned that it can fire-off the missile at any place and time if its leadership gives an order.

North Korea is presumed to have built two missiles believed to be ICBMs and placed them on mobile launchers for test-firing in the near future, South Korean military sources said.

The move has sparked speculation that the North could carry out a provocative act at an earlier date that previously anticipated. Many analysts are predicting Pyongyang could launch a missile at some point near March or April to protest against a joint military drill between Seoul and Washington.

Kim's inspection also came as U.S. President-elect Donald Trump takes office Friday.

"His field guidance appears aimed at boosting the military's morale," said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies. "The move can moreover send a message to the U.S. that Pyongyang is ready for both confrontation and dialogue."

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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