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(2nd LD) N.K. leader accuses 'hostile forces' of intensifying 'war drills for aggression'

All News 15:21 July 30, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with comments from official in 8th para)
By Yi Wonju

SEOUL, July 30 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un accused "hostile forces" of intensifying "frantic and persistent war drills for aggression" as he presided over the first-ever workshop of military commanders and political officers this week, state media reported Friday.

The remark came as South Korea and the United States are mulling over whether and how to conduct their annual military exercise expected for mid-August amid concern that it could negatively affect a conciliatory mood created in the wake of the North's restoration of inter-Korean communication lines this week.

The North has long bristled at such combined drills, branding them as a rehearsal for invasion.

"At present the hostile forces systematically keep bolstering up their capabilities for making a preemptive attack on the DPRK and increase armaments while intensifying all sorts of frantic and persistent war drills for aggression," Kim told the workshop held from Saturday to Tuesday, according to the KCNA.

"He noted such situation has hardened the determination and fighting will of the KPA to eradicate the root cause of the evil cycle of escalating tensions," the KCNA said. "He called for all the military and political cadres to put the greatest efforts into bolstering up the combat efficiency of their units.

KPA refers to the Korean People's Army.

However, Kim did not mention nuclear weapons or have any direct messages for Washington or Seoul.

Later in the day, a high-ranking South Korean official called for postponing next month's exercise with the U.S., stressing that now is the "right time" for Seoul and Washington to cooperate to bring the North back to the negotiating table.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attends the first-ever workshop of military commanders and political officers in Pyongyang, in this undated photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency on July 30, 2021. At the workshop, which ran from July 24 through 27, Kim made no mention of nuclear weapons or relations with South Korea or the United States. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

Kim also urged soldiers to devote their lives to protecting the North Korean people and their properties, and stressed the importance for the soldiers to take pride in being "the creators of the people's happiness, the sentinels responsible for preserving the people's trust in the Party," according to the KCNA.

Kim's remark comes as the North is faced with chronic food shortages, which appear to have worsened due to the back-to-back typhoons and flooding that wrought havoc on key farming areas last year.

Last month, Kim acknowledged that the country is facing a "tense" food shortage and issued a "special order" to improve people's living without unveiling any details.

Observers say the military appears to have failed to follow his order to supply the North Korean people with wartime food reserves.

The KCNA said that the workshop analyzed in detail major shortcomings in the work of military units in implementing the policies of the party.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) inspects an honor guard as he attends the first-ever workshop of military commanders and political officers in Pyongyang, in this photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency on July 30, 2021. At the workshop, which ran from July 24 through 27, Kim made no mention of nuclear weapons or relations with South Korea or the United States. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) attends the first-ever workshop of military commanders and political officers in Pyongyang, in this photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency on July 30, 2021. At the workshop, which ran from July 24 through 27, Kim made no mention of nuclear weapons or relations with South Korea or the United States. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

julesyi@yna.co.kr
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