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(2nd LD) Kim watches airborne landing training, urges improved war preparedness

North Korea 17:14 November 18, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS more info in 5th para, 2nd photo)
By Koh Byung-joon

SEOUL, Nov. 18 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has supervised an airborne landing training, emphasizing the need to improve the country's war preparedness, Pyongyang's official news agency said Monday.

Kim's "field guidance" was reported a day after South Korea and the United States decided to put off their wartime air exercises to encourage North Korea to return to the negotiation table for its denuclearization.

Kim watched "an airborne landing training of sharpshooter sub-units of the Air and Anti-Aircraft Force of the Korean People's Army (KPA)," according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

"It is necessary to wage a drill without notice under the simulated conditions of real war like this and examine it, not being affected by rule and formality, and thus make it an opportunity for improving the preparedness of KPA units for war and examining and training them," Kim was quoted as saying.

According to footage released by the North's state TV, the sharpshooters jumped from a plane that appeared to be an An-2 aircraft, which is known to be used for infiltration operations.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (L) watches sharpshooters of the North's Air and Anti-Aircraft Force conduct an airborne landing training, in this photo provided by the Korean Central News Agency on Nov. 18, 2019. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

On Sunday, South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper decided to put off their wintertime combined air exercises as "an act of goodwill" to boost diplomacy with North Korea.

Hours later, U.S. President Donald Trump urged North Korean leader Kim to "act quickly" and reach a deal with him on dismantling the regime's nuclear weapons program.

North Korea earlier said it is ready to meet with the U.S. "at any place and any time" but strongly protested the upcoming drills, warning of "shocking punishment," and urged Washington to drop such hostile policy against Pyongyang.

Last month, in Stockholm, the U.S. and North Korea held working-level negotiations on the North's nuclear weapons programs for the first time since the breakdown of the summit between Trump and Kim in Hanoi in February.

They still failed to narrow differences on how to compensate Pyongyang for its denuclearization steps.

Pyongyang said Washington should come up with a proposal acceptable to it before the end of this year, a deadline set by leader Kim.

Kim's supervision of the airborne landing training comes two days after the KCNA reported that he attended a military air show and called on pilots to be ready to fight "enemies armed to the teeth."

In this image captured from the North's state TV on Nov. 18, 2019, North Korean soldiers jump out of a plane that appears to be an An-2 aircraft, using white parachutes, during an airborne landing training. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

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