North Korea’s Kim orders military to intensify drills to respond to ‘real war’ if necessary

Kim Jong-un has ordered the North Korean military to intensify drills and sharpen their combat readiness to deter and respond to a "real war" if necessary as he supervised a fire assault drill.

The North Korean leader supervised a frontline artillery drill that simulated an attack on an unspecified South Korean airfield, state media said Friday.

His statement comes after the North fired a short-range ballistic missile off its western coastal city of Nampo on Thursday, according to the South Korean military.

Photos released by Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) showed at least six missiles being fired at the same time.

A unit trained for "strike missions" fired a "powerful volley at the targeted waters" and demonstrated its capability to "counter an actual war", KCNA reported.

"(Kim) stressed that the fire assault sub-units should be strictly prepared for the greatest perfection in carrying out the two strategic missions, that is, first to deter war and second to take the initiative in war, by steadily intensifying various simulated drills for real war."

The Hermit Kingdom's leader said the country's enemies were proceeding with "all sorts of more frantic war preparation moves".

Mr Kim was accompanied by his young daughter Kim Ju-ae, who has appeared recently in a series of major events amid speculations of her being groomed to be the heir.

The leader's comments were seen in line with an escalatory nuclear doctrine the North set into law last year, which authorises pre-emptive nuclear strikes in various situations where it may perceive its leadership as under threat.

A photo released by the official North Korean Central News Agency shows an artillery drill in an undisclosed location in North Korea (EPA)
A photo released by the official North Korean Central News Agency shows an artillery drill in an undisclosed location in North Korea (EPA)

The North Korean media report did not specify what types of artillery were involved in Thursday’s exercise or state the exact number of rockets fired. Some of the North’s newer short-range weapons include large-sized multiple rocket launchers that experts say blur the boundaries between artillery and ballistic missile systems.

The test launch took place ahead of a joint military training exercise by South Korea and the US, aimed at countering the escalating threat of Mr Kim’s growing nuclear arsenal.

The North has long bristled at the allies' drills as a rehearsal for invasion.

South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol said Seoul would step up combined military drills with Washington and enhance joint planning and execution of US extended deterrence against the North's nuclear and missile threats.

"We will build an overwhelming response capability and retaliation posture," Mr Yoon said at a commissioning ceremony for naval academy graduates in the southeastern city of Changwon.

The security situation surrounding the Korean peninsula was "more serious than ever", he warned.

Seoul has been seeking to strengthen extended deterrence, the ability of the US military to deter attacks with its nuclear umbrella, amid growing calls within South Korea for the country to develop its own nuclear capability to counter North Korean threats.

Kim Yo-jong, the sister of the North Korean leader, earlier this week warned that any move to shoot down one of its test missiles would be considered a declaration of war.

"We keep our eye on the restless military moves by the US forces and the South Korean puppet military and are always on standby to take appropriate, quick and overwhelming action at any time according to our judgment,” Ms Yo jong said.