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North Korea’s Kim Jong Un orders military to speed up war preparations

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered his country’s military, munitions industry and nuclear weapons sector to step up war preparations to counter what he has described as unprecedented confrontational measures by the United States, state media reported Thursday.

Speaking on policy directions for the new year at a key meeting of the country’s ruling party on Wednesday, Kim also said Pyongyang would expand strategic cooperation with “independent anti-imperialist” countries, the KCNA news agency.

North Korea has expanded ties with Russia, among others, as Washington accuses Pyongyang of supplying military equipment to Moscow for use in its war with Ukraine, while Russia provides technical support to help the North to develop its military capabilities.

“He (Kim) set the militant tasks of the People’s Army and the munitions industry, nuclear weapons and civil defense sectors to further accelerate war preparations,” KCNA said.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol visited a frontline military unit in eastern Yeoncheon County on Thursday to inspect its defense posture and called for immediate retaliation if provoked by North Korea.

“I urge you to immediately and firmly crush the enemy’s will for provocation on the spot,” Yoon told the troops.

At the party plenum, North Korea’s Kim also outlined his economic goals for the new year, calling it a “decisive year” for fulfilling the country’s five-year development plan, KCNA said.

“He clarified important tasks to be dynamically advanced in key industrial sectors in the new year” and called for “stabilizing agricultural production at a high level.”

The North has suffered severe food shortages in recent decades, including famines in the 1990s, often caused by natural disasters. International experts have warned that border closures during the Covid-19 pandemic have worsened food security.

North Korea’s agricultural production is estimated to have increased year-on-year in 2023 due to favorable weather conditions. But a South Korean official said the amount was still far below what is needed to address the country’s chronic food shortages.

The ninth plenary meeting of the 8th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea began Tuesday to cap a year in which the isolated North enshrined its nuclear policy in its constitution, launched a spy satellite and fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile .

This one-day meeting of party and government officials has been used in recent years to make key policy announcements. Previously, state media published Kim’s speech on New Year’s Day.

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