SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea has conducted artillery exercises to strengthen its defense capability, state media reported on Sunday.
An artillery fire competition between mechanized units was held on Saturday, attended by senior government and military officials, the official Korean Central News Agency reported.
Leader Kim Jong Un was not mentioned in the report, suggesting that he did not observe the training. He oversaw a similar artillery launch exercise last year.
This year’s exercises are designed to test the mechanized units’ progress in their mobile combat capabilities and to further intensify competitive training throughout the military of the north, KCNA said.
Since September, North Korea has been testing a number of newly developed missiles, including nuclear-grade weapons that bring U.S. allies South Korea and Japan within striking distance. Some experts say North Korea wants its rivals to accept it as a nuclear power state and work to ease international sanctions against the country.
The north’s artillery tests attract less attention than its missile tests, particularly the launch of ballistic weapons, which are banned by several UN Security Council resolutions. But its long-range artillery pieces, stationed near the border with South Korea, pose a serious threat to the populous metropolitan area of the south and other areas, experts say.
The talks led by the US to end the North Korean nuclear program collapsed in early 2019 in the dispute over sanctions. US officials recently offered to resume talks with North Korea without preconditions. The North said it would not return to the talks unless the United States first abandons its hostile policy, which Pyongyang calls, an obvious reference to the sanctions and regular military exercises between Washington and Seoul.
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