North Korean leader Kim Jong Un undertook another inspection tour of major munitions factories and ordered a sharp increase in the production of missiles and other weapons, state media said on Monday, days before South Korea and the US begin annual military exercises, which North Korea considers to be Invasion Views Sample.
Kim’s push to produce more weapons also comes as US officials believe Russia’s defense minister recently spoke with North Korea about selling more weapons to Russia for its war in Ukraine.
The Korea Central News Agency said Kim visited factories that produce tactical missiles, mobile launch platforms, armored vehicles and artillery shells on Friday and Saturday.
During a stop at the missile factory, Kim aimed to “drastically increase” production capacity so that the facility could mass-produce missiles for the needs of front-line military units, KCNA said.
“The qualitative level of war preparations depends on the development of the munitions industry, and the factory has a very important responsibility in accelerating the (North) Korean People’s Army’s war preparations,” Kim said, according to the report.
Visiting other factories, Kim called for the construction of more modern rocket launchers and said there was an urgent need to boost production of large-caliber multiple rocket launcher shells “exponentially,” the report said. According to KCNA, Kim also drove a new armored multirole combat vehicle.
Kim has focused on expanding his nuclear and missile arsenals since his high-level diplomacy with then-US President Donald Trump failed in 2019. Since early 2022, Kim’s military has conducted more than 100 missile tests, many on behalf of warns the US and South Korea against expanding joint military training exercises.
North Korea could soon conduct more weapons tests as the US and South Korea are due to start their summer drills later this month. North Korea describes the US-South Korean training as an exercise for an invasion. Allies say they have no intention of attacking North Korea.
KCNA quoted Kim as saying North Korea must “have overwhelming military might and prepare fully to face any war” with the power to “certainly crush” its enemies.
Many pundits say Kim eventually wants to use his modernized arsenal to wrestle concessions from the US, such as an easing of sanctions, once diplomacy with Washington resumes.
Earlier this month, the White House said US intelligence officials found that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, during a visit to Pyongyang last month, spoke with North Korean officials about increasing sales of ammunition to Moscow for its war in Ukraine.
North Korea has denied American claims that it shipped artillery shells and ammunition to Russia. But the North has publicly backed Russia during the war and indicated it would send workers to help rebuild Russian-held territories in Ukraine.
Kim has sought to strengthen ties with China and Russia amid US-led pressure campaigns over his nuclear program and pandemic-related economic difficulties.