(2nd LD) N. Korean leader inspects 'actual war' readiness of artillery unit targeting enemy's airfield: KCNA
(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; ADDS photos, comments from defense and unification ministries)
By Yi Wonju
SEOUL, March 10 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspected a "fire assault drill" of an artillery unit as he urged the military to bolster simulated drills for an "actual war," Pyongyang's state media said Friday, with South Korea and the United States set to kick off their springtime joint military exercise next week.
Photos released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) also showed Kim's daughter Ju-ae attending the "field guidance."
Kim "gave field guidance to" the "Hwasong artillery unit charged with important operational task of the Korean People's Army on the western front on March 9 and watched a fire assault drill," the KCNA said in an English-language report.
"He stressed the need to always stay alert for all sorts of more frantic war preparation moves being committed by the enemy recently and maintain and steadily train the powerful capability to overwhelmingly respond to and contain them all the time so as to thoroughly deter the danger of a military clash on the Korean Peninsula," it added.
Kim emphasized that the fire assault subunits should be "strictly prepared for the greatest perfection" in carrying out two strategic missions: deterring war and taking the initiative in war "by steadily intensifying various simulated drills for real war in a diverse way in different situations."
The North's leader "examined the actual war response posture of the 8th fire assault company under the unit charged with striking the enemy's operation airport in the direction of the western front," implying that the drills were aimed at striking the South's military airfields in case of a war.
"The fire assault company, which has trained its capability to carrying out strike missions in the definite and minute war posture of containing any military moves of the enemy at a time, fired a powerful volley at the targeted waters in the West Sea of Korea set under the simulated conditions of the major elements of the enemy operation airport, thus confidently demonstrating its capability to counter an actual war," the KCNA said.
Photos unveiled by its state media suggested the possibility of the secretive North having test-fired at least six tactical guided weapons simultaneously from a reservoir area.
Hours later, an official at South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff also said the North apparently launched six missiles presumed to be short-range ballistic ones.
"It makes no sense tactically to launch (missiles) with the weapons system in such close formation. So, we believe it is intended as a show of force in connection with the Freedom Shield (FS) exercise of South Korea and the U.S.," the official said. The allies are scheduled to start the major combined practice next Monday for an 11-day run, coupled with a large-scale field maneuver, called the Warrior Shield.
Seoul's unification ministry called on Pyongyang to cease all provocations and to return to dialogue.
"We urge North Korea to stop escalating tensions with its reckless nuclear and missile development and military provocations and to take the right path toward lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula while looking after its economy and people's livelihood," Lee Hyo-jung, the ministry's deputy spokesperson, said at a press briefing.
Earlier this week, Kim Yo-jong, the powerful sister of leader Kim, said the reclusive country will regard any U.S. attempt to intercept its missile as a "clear declaration of war" and threatened to take "overwhelming" actions against military activities by Washington and Seoul.
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