Kim Jong Un supervised what North Korea says was its largest-ever live-fire military drill on Tuesday, in military exercises staged to mark the 85th foundation anniversary of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Wednesday.
More than 300 large-caliber self-propelled guns were mobilized, state media said, as well as submarines armed with torpedoes and fighter jets.
“The combined fire demonstration of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) services in celebration of its 85th founding anniversary was staged on the largest-ever scale since the foundation of the armed forces,” KCNA reported in a Korean dispatch.
On the same day the U.S. nuclear-powered submarine USS Michigan (SSGN 727) arrived in the South, KCNA said elite Artillery Forces, the Navy and the Air and Anti-Air Force of the KPA participated in drills described as “a combined fire demonstration of the services of the KPA.”
“Submarines rapidly submerged to make torpedo attacks at the ‘enemy’ warships while fighters and bombers made zero feet flight above the sea to drop bombs on the targets,” KCNA said in an English dispatch. “More than 300 large-caliber self-propelled guns lined up along the coast and opened fire all at once.”
Kim Jong Un reportedly praised the sailors and pilots for “hitting the targets every time”.
“The brave artillerymen mercilessly and satisfactorily hit the targets and the gunshots were very correct, he said, adding that they showed well the volley of gunfire of our a-match-for-a-hundred artillery force, giving merciless punishment to the hostile forces,” KCNA said, describing the leader’s comments.
“The hearts [of Korean People’s Army] are boiled over with the combative aspiration to destruct and dissipate the United States and the South Korean puppets in one blow… and put down them at one stroke,” KCNA said in the Korean dispatch.
KCNA suggested that the military drills were conducted in Wonsan, saying that Kim had arrived “at an airport in the eastern front” to watch the combined fire demonstration.
The venue of the military exercise is presumed to be the Kalma Peninsula, where the North staged artillery drills in March and December last year, and the target island in the pictures released by ruling party organ the Rodong Sinmum appeared to be the Hwangto-do islet.
Kim Dong-yub, a Professor at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES) at Kyungnam University, said the drills were intended as a show of military strength.
“The North’s fighter planes and anti-aircraft weapons can be seen responding to [enemy] aircraft, stopping surgical strikes, air attacks, and bombing,” Kim told NK News.
Kim also said that a clear message was being sent to the South, with North Korea showing 300 pieces of large-caliber self-propelled guns firing “at the same time in retaliation against Seoul, the regions near the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) including five Northwest Islands at any time”- an apparent drill for what would happen in the event of a pre-emptive strike.
Kim Min-seok, a senior researcher at the Korea Defense and Security Forum (KODEF), said that 170-mm self-propelled guns (M1989), 130-mm self-propelled guns (M1992), and 122mm self-propelled howitzers can be seen in photos published by the Rodong Sinmun.
“Both are the self-propelled guns that the North Koran army mainly uses,” Kim told NK News. “As the range of 170-mm self-propelled guns can hit targets further than 54km, we can say it’s the long-range artillery intended to target the Seoul metropolitan area.”
In a 2016 white paper, the South Korean Ministry of National Defense (MND) reported that around 70 percent of the DPRK’s active land forces are deployed south of the Pyongyang-Wonsan line. The report argued that the North’s ground forces are “maintaining military readiness to make a surprise attack at any time” and cited long-range artillery as a “major threat.”
The 170mm SP guns and 240mm MRLs – deployed on the front lines – would be capable of a “surprise, concentrated and massive attack” on Seoul, according to the MND.
Unlike in military drills conducted in March and December of 2016, the North also showed off several air combat fighter planes, with the drill featuring the Su-25 Frogfoot and the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 Flogger.
Featured Image: Rodong Sinmun
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