Kim Jong-un Commands Live-Fire Drills in Direction of S. Korean Border Islands
The North's state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Thursday, that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un commanded live-fire drills aimed at key battlegrounds between the two Koreas, in an attempt to gauge the army's combat readiness and check their weapons capacity.
The areas include the front-line Yeonpyeong and Baengnyeong islands near the maritime border, that are most vulnerable to an assault from the North.
Although the agency didn't mention the timing of the drills, they're presumed to have taken place on Wednesday.
South Korea's defense ministry played down the significance of the North Korean leader's presence at the drills, saying that the leader observed the same live-fire drills last year, on a similar date, in protest against the annual joint drills between Seoul and Washington.
Defense ministry spokesperson Kim Min-seok said he was confident that the South Korean military will know, in advance, whether the North is planning a surprise attack on the islands near the maritime border.
He also said he was positive that the South Korean army will know if North Korea beefs up its artillery near the inter-Korean clash points, and can quickly come up with new counter strategies based on the North's actions.
In response to recent comments made by the U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who said North Korea's rhetoric could presage an attack on South Korea, the defense ministry spokesperson said that Seoul has not ruled out the possibility of further military provocations by the North.
He cautioned, however, that the North's strong words are more likely aimed at coercing the U.S. back to the negotiating table and solidifying its leadership by rallying the support of its people.
Han Da-eun, Arirang News.
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