Kim Jong Un Boosts War Readiness, Visits Tank Division Amid Seoul Strains

North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong Un oversaw a tank drill and rallied his armored forces to intensify their combat readiness amidst escalating tensions with South Korea, state media reported this Monday.

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During his Sunday visit to the elite Seoul Ryu Kyong Su Guards 105th Tank Division, Kim underscored the historical significance of the unit which was the foremost to enter the South Korean capital during the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, a conflict that lasted nearly four years.

Recently, the Korean Peninsula has witnessed a surge in hostilities after Kim increased his military showcases, including tests of atomic missiles that can reach South Korea, the U.S., and Japan, while threatening nuclear warfare against these adversaries.

In retaliation, the governments of Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo have bolstered their joint military drills and revised their defensive strategies, centered around key U.S. military capacities.

State media images depicted Kim engaging with officers at a command site and showcased tanks, adorned with the North Korean ensign, maneuvering across rough terrain. One tank displayed a banner proclaiming: “Annihilate U.S. invaders, the Korean people’s arch foes!”

Kim lauded the 105th Division as exemplary for his army, which is engrossed in “the ongoing struggle … to complete war preparations.” He directed the unit to enhance their combat readiness and modernize their armaments, per the state report.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry spokesperson, Jeon Ha Gyu, acknowledged that the South Korean and U.S. forces are keenly observing the military developments in North Korea but withheld detailed commentary on the North’s state media reports.

Earlier in the month, Kim orchestrated a competition among his tank divisions, with the 105th Division emerging victorious. The March 13 event also showcased a new North Korean tank, illustrating Kim’s determination to advance his military’s conventional strength alongside his missile arsenal.

The previous week saw North Korea execute a live-fire exercise with large-caliber multiple rocket launchers, aimed at Seoul, in addition to claiming a triumphant engine test for a developing intermediate-range hypersonic missile, targeting distant U.S. locations in the Pacific, such as Guam.

Amidst an election year in both the United States and South Korea, there’s apprehension that North Korea might escalate its aggressive stance.

While the consensus among experts is that Kim is unlikely to seek full-scale war, South Korean authorities have suggested the potential for minor hostile acts along the contentious border areas, including the western maritime boundary that has been the scene of violent confrontations historically.

In a vehement address to Pyongyang’s parliament in January, Kim announced a departure from North Korea’s traditional pursuit of reconciliation with the South, instructing a revamp of the nation’s constitution to solidify the stance against its war-separated rival as an ultimate enemy. He asserted that the revised constitution should stipulate North Korea’s intention to annex and dominate the South in the event of renewed hostilities.

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