North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered his country’s military, nuclear weapons forces and munitions industry to accelerate war preparations to counter “confrontational moves by the US”, state media has said.
Speaking on the policy directions for the new year at a key meeting of the country’s ruling party on Wednesday, Mr Kim also said Pyongyang would expand its cooperation with “anti-imperialist independent” countries, North Korean news agency KCNA reported.
“He (Kim) set forth the militant tasks for the People’s Army and the munitions industry, nuclear weapons and civil defence sectors to further accelerate the war preparations,” KCNA said.
It added it was in response to “(anti-North Korea) confrontational moves by the US and its vassal forces unprecedented in history”.
North Korea has been strengthening ties with Russia – among others – as Washington accuses Pyongyang of supplying military aid to Moscow to use in its war with Ukraine.
South Korea has vowed a stern retaliation against any provocations by the North, amid fears it will launch a military and cyber attack ahead of South Korean parliamentary elections in April and the US presidential election in November.
On Thursday, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol visited a frontline military unit in the eastern county of Yeoncheon to inspect its defence posture and called for immediate retaliation if there was any provocation from North Korea.
“I urge you to immediately and firmly crush the enemy’s will for a provocation on the spot,” Mr Yoon told troops.
Observers say Mr Kim likely hopes to use his boosted arsenal as leverage in potential diplomacy with Washington, possibly after the US presidential election in November next year.
During the party plenum, Mr Kim also laid out economic goals for the new year, calling it a “decisive year”.
The Workers’ Party meeting is expected to last several days, and state media are expected to publicise details of its discussions after it ends, likely on 31 December.
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Experts say North Korea is expected to come up with pledges to strengthen its nuclear attack capability and expand cooperation with Russia and China, which are also locked in separate confrontations with the US.