North Korean leader Kim oversees paratroop drills

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North Korea’s Kim Jong Un oversaw paratroop drills aimed at showing his soldiers’ ability to occupy an “enemy region at a stroke”, state media said Saturday, days after the most recent annual US-South Korean military exercise.

Pyongyang has shown particular sensitivity towards the joint air force exercises conducted by Washington and Seoul, with experts noting that the North’s air force is considered to be the weakest link in its military.

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Pyongyang’s latest training overseen by Kim was “aimed at inspecting the paratroopers’ readiness to be mobilised for any operational plan in surprise wartime circumstances” and judging their capabilities, Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency reported.

The troops demonstrated “their perfect combat capability to occupy the enemy region at a stroke once an order is issued”, it added.

Kim stressed the importance of “applying realistic and scientific training methods” for “achieving maximum fighting efficiency on actual battlefields as required by modern warfare”, it added.

The North Korean leader also showed “great satisfaction” as his airborne soldiers “occupied the simulated main enemy military targets at once”, KCNA said.

Images released by Pyongyang’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed Kim’s young daughter, Ju Ae, using binoculars to observe the drills, standing beside her father and senior military officials.

In another image, troops on the ground get into position as scores of paratroopers can be seen drifting to the ground from above in the background.

The latest report from Pyongyang comes just days after it announced that Kim drove a “new-type main battle tank” that the North claimed was the “most powerful in the world”.

Seoul and Washington this week wrapped up their annual large-scale Freedom Shield exercises -- involving missile interception and air assault drills, among others -- with double the number of troops participating compared to 2023.

Pyongyang last week warned that the South and the United States would pay a “dear price” over the Freedom Shield drills, and later announced that Kim had guided a large-scale artillery drill involving a unit that it said was capable of striking the South Korean capital.

Earlier this week, South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik visited the headquarters of the army’s Special Warfare Command during the Washington-Seoul drills, which involved “mastering advanced combat skills”.

This included “clearing operations” inside North Korea’s “key facilities” in case of an attack by Pyongyang.

“If Kim Jong Un wages war, you should become the world’s strongest special warfare unit that quickly removes the enemy’s leadership,” Shin said during the visit.

So far this year, Pyongyang has declared South Korea its “principal enemy”, jettisoned agencies dedicated to reunification and outreach, and threatened war over “even 0.001 mm” of territorial infringement.

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