Kim Jong-un tours weapons factories, vows to boost North Korea’s war readiness

Comments come as US and South Korea prepare for combined military exercises aimed at coping with threat from Pyongyang

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un toured the country’s key weapons factories, including those producing artillery systems and launch vehicles for nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, and pledged to speed up efforts to advance his military’s arms and war readiness, state media said.

Mr Kim’s three days of inspections came as the US and South Korea prepared for their next round of combined military exercises planned for later this month to cope with the growing North Korean threat.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are at their highest level in years as the pace of North Korea’s missile tests and the joint US-South Korea military drills, which Mr Kim portrays as invasion rehearsals, have both intensified in a tit-for-tat cycle.

Some experts say Mr Kim’s tour of the weapons factories could also be related to possible military co-operation with Moscow that may involve North Korean supplies of artillery and other ammunition as Russian president Vladimir Putin reaches out to other countries for support in the war in Ukraine.


During Mr Kim’s visit to an unspecified factory producing large-calibre artillery systems, he stressed the factory’s “important responsibilities and tasks in perfecting (the North’s) war readiness”, North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

New types of shells

Mr Kim praised the factory’s efforts to employ “scientific and technological measures” to improve the quality of shells, reduce processing times for propellent tubes and increase manufacturing speed, but also called for the need to develop and produce new types of shells, KCNA said.

At another factory manufacturing launcher trucks designed to transport and fire ballistic missiles, Mr Kim said increasing the supply of the vehicles is a top priority for the military and complimented workers for establishing a “solid foundation” for production.

At a factory producing engines for cruise missiles and drones, Mr Kim called for “rapidly expanding” production, KCNA said.

Mr Kim’s stops also included a small arms factory, where he stressed the need to modernise the weapons carried by soldiers. Photos published by state media showed Mr Kim firing at least two different scoped rifles from a table.

In the face of deepening confrontations with Washington and Seoul, Mr Kim has been trying boost the visibility of his partnerships with Moscow and Beijing as he tries to break out of diplomatic isolation and insert himself into a united front against the United States.

Russian minister

His tour of the weapons factories comes after a giant military parade last month in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, where Mr Kim was joined by Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu and a Chinese ruling party official while rolling out his most powerful missiles designed to target South Korea and the United States.

Mr Shoigu’s presence at the July 27 parade, which came after Mr Kim took him on a tour of a domestic arms exhibition, demonstrated North Korea’s support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and added to suspicions the North was willing to supply arms to Russia to support its war efforts.

North Korea has been aligning with Russia over the war in Ukraine, insisting that the “hegemonic policy” of the US-led West forced Moscow to take military action to protect its security interests.

But Pyongyang has denied US accusations that it has been providing arms to Russia to aid its fighting in Ukraine. - AP