Seoul, South Korea – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un revisited key munitions factories and ordered a drastic increase in production of missiles and other weapons, according to state media reports, days before South Korea and The United States is to begin annual joint military exercises, which North Korea views as invasion exercises.
Mr Kim’s order to increase weapons production also comes as US officials believe Russia’s Defense Minister has been in talks with North Korea to sell more weapons to Russia for its war in Ukraine.
The North’s Korean Central News Agency reports that Mr. Kim on Friday and Saturday visited factories that produce tactical missiles, mobile missile launchers, armored vehicles and artillery shells.
During a stop at the missile factory, Mr. Kim said the goal is to “drastically increase” production capacity so that the factory can produce large quantities of missiles to meet the needs of frontline military units, according to the agency. KCNA.
“The quality of our war preparation depends on the development of the munitions industry, and the factory bears a very important responsibility in accelerating the war preparations of the (North) Korean People’s Army,” Mr. Kim said, according to the agency’s statement.
During the visit to other factories, Mr. Kim called for the construction of more modern trucks for launching rockets. He stressed that there is an urgent need to increase the production of large-caliber projectiles “at an accelerated rate,” according to the announcement. During the visit, Mr. Kim drove an armored personnel carrier, according to the news agency.
Mr Kim has focused on expanding his nuclear and missile arsenal since high-level diplomatic talks with former US President Donald Trump broke down in 2019. Since the start of 2022, Mr Kim’s military has tested more than 100 missiles, most of which as a warning to the US and South Korea about their plans to expand joint military exercises.
In this period, when the US and South Korea begin northern exercises, it is likely that North Korea will conduct more frequent missile tests. North Korea calls the two countries’ joint drills an invasion maneuver, while the allies say they have no intention of attacking North Korea.
The KCNA news agency quoted Mr. Kim as saying that North Korea must have “unparalleled military strength and must be fully prepared to face any kind of war” capable of “completely destroying” its enemies.
Many experts say Mr Kim intends to use the modernized weapons arsenal in exchange for concessions from the US, such as sanctions relief, if diplomatic talks with Washington resume.
In early August, the White House announced that US intelligence officials had concluded that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu spoke with North Korean officials during a visit to Pyongyang in July to increase the amount of weapons that Moscow bought from North Korea, to use in its war in Ukraine.
North Korea has denied US claims that it has shipped anti-personnel missiles and weapons to Russia. But North Korea has publicly backed Russia and suggested it would send workers to rebuild parts of Ukraine occupied by Russian forces.
Faced with American pressure over the nuclear program and amid economic difficulties as a result of the pandemic, Mr Kim is trying to strengthen relations with China and Russia.