PYONGYANG, North Korea, March 14 (UPI) — North Koreans, guided by their leader Kim Jong Un, held artillery exercises apparently targeting South Korean islands, the North’s news agency said Thursday.
Although the Korean Central News Agency did not say when the exercises were held, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency said they were likely conducted Wednesday and involved batteries capable of targeting Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong islands in the Yellow Sea.
Yonhap, quoting the KCNA, said Kim oversaw live ammunition drills to test the capabilities of artillery batteries under real battle conditions. Yonhap said the Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong islands just south of the Northern Limit Line act as the de facto sea border between the two Koreas, although the North does not recognize the NLL.
The artillery exercises come as North Korea, under Kim, has stepped up its highly provocative threats against the United States and South Korea to express its anger against the recent U.N. Security Council resolution that severely tightened existing sanctions for the North’s Feb. 12 nuclear test and its earlier long-range missile test.
The North’s latest action comes as the United States and South Korea are holding their annual military exercises. The North also has scrapped the Korean Armistice that halted the 1950-53 Korean War.
In its report, KCNA said Kim, who also is a marshal in the North Korean military, was pleased with the level of accuracy of the artillery units. The report was quoted as saying the aim of the exercise is to destroy the headquarters of the South Korean army and marine corps units on the two islands as well as other military installations.
Earlier this week, U.S. National Intelligence Director James R. Clapper Jr. told the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence he is concerned about the North’s threats.
“I personally, having followed Korea ever since I served there in the mid ’80s as the director of intelligence for U.S. Forces Korea, am very concerned about the actions of the new young leader (Kim Jong Un) and very belligerent, and the rhetoric that has been emanating from the North Korean regime,” Clapper said.
“The rhetoric, while it is propaganda-laced, is also an indicator of their attitude and perhaps their intent. So for my part, I am very concerned about what they might do. And they are certainly, if they chose — so chose — could initiate a provocative action against the South.”
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