Kim Jong Un visited the Headquarters of Large Combined Unit 966 of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), a unit that is believed to be part of the Pyongyang Defense Command (PCD), state media announced on Wednesday, as South Korea and the U.S. began their first joint training exercise of the year.
The corp-size unit is tasked with defending Pyongyang in case of an ROK-U.S. “invasion,” the state-owned Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Wednesday, without specifying when the visit took place.
“Kim Jong Un was pleased with the battle readiness of the unit; the unit that is to be the bulletproof wall and the thousand layers of the fortress to defend the revolutionary leadership if the U.S. and the South Korea dare to attack us,” the report said.
North Korean media released two almost identical photos in which Kim Jong Un posed with hundreds of KPA soldiers, but gave no indication where exactly the base is.
“Formed on September 1, 1967… the unit was visited by Kim Il Sung eight times, Kim Jong Il 33 times and 11 times by Kim Jong Un,” the article said.
Kim Jong Un’s visit to a significant military headquarters comes in the first few months of a year where he has largely focused on economic affairs. Data from the NK Leadership Tracker shows that out of 18 visits made prior to this most recent appearance, only four were for military purposes.
In the article, the North accuses Seoul and Washington of “simulating the war game” with the aim of invading North Korea, rhetoric in keeping with its usual response to the multiple annual drills held by the U.S. and the South every year.
Foal Eagle, the ROK-U.S. annual combined Field Training Exercise (FTX) began on Wednesday. Approximately 17,000 U.S. forces participated with ROK forces in last year’s Foal Eagle and Key Resolve, two training exercises which usually begin in the same month.
This year’s Foal Eagle is to last until the end of next month, and is said by the South Korean military to be one of the largest drills ever conducted by the two countries.
As Foal Eagle began, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis spoke with South Korean Minister of National Defense Han Min-Koo to discuss the long-standing alliance between the two countries.
“The U.S. remains steadfast in its commitment to the defense of the ROK,” Secretary Mattis told Minister Han, further emphasizing that “any use of nuclear weapons will be met with a response that is effective and overwhelming.”
The two also discussed the recent land transfer between the Lotte Group and the ROK government, land that will be used to station the U.S. made missile defense Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.
Featured Image: Rodong Sinmun
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