North Korea responded to the announcement of upcoming joint U.S.-South Korea military drills by simulating an attack on an unspecified South Korean airfield, firing at least six rockets in a live-fire exercise overseen by Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un.
North Korean state-run media reported the news in its typical fawning, stilted manner:
Kim Jong Un, general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea and president of the State Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, gave field guidance to the Hwasong artillery unit charged with important operational task of the Korean People’s Army on the western front on March 9 and watched a fire assault drill.
The respected Comrade Kim Jong Un was greeted by commanding officers of the unit on the spot.
He highly appreciated that all the service personnel are intensifying their combat and political training in a stand-by posture with high class consciousness, transparent will to deal with the enemy and resolute viewpoint on struggle and steadily perfecting their operational capability to successfully carry out their important military task.
The exercise occurred after the South Korean military reported Thursday that the Hermit Kingdom had fired at least one ballistic missile off its western coast.
The attack simulation isn’t totally unexpected, seeing as South Korea and the United States announced on March 3 huge joint military maneuvers to take place later this month. Per the AP:
The South Korean and U.S. militaries announced Friday they will hold their biggest joint field exercises in five years later this month, as the U.S. flew a long-range B-1B bomber to the Korean Peninsula in a show of force against North Korea…
In a joint news conference, the South Korean and U.S. militaries said they will conduct the Freedom Shield exercise, a computer-simulated command post training, from March 13 to 23 to strengthen their defense and response capabilities, and separate large-scale joint field training exercises called Warrior Shield FTX.
Also on hand to watch the simulation was Kim’s daughter Kim Ju-ae—thought to be 10 years old—who has appeared at several recent official events amid rumors she’s being groomed as his heir.
Kim has been ramping up the rhetoric recently, as state-run media reports:
He stressed the need to always stay alert for all sorts of more frantic war preparation moves being committed by the enemy recently and maintain and steadily train the powerful capability to overwhelmingly respond to and contain them all the time so as to thoroughly deter the danger of a military clash on the Korean Peninsula…
Sometimes it’s hard not to wonder if Kim should be taken seriously because he’s such a weirdo. But then you remember he has nuclear weapons, so yes—we should take him very seriously, and his increasingly bellicose rhetoric is concerning.