January 18, 2010 09:19
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il recently watched an exercise by the North Korean Army, Navy and Air Force, the [North] Korean Central Broadcasting Station reported on Sunday.
The drill is seen as a show of force after the National Defense Commission, the top leadership body chaired by Kim, last week complained about a South Korean contingency plan for any drastic change in the North, which is being updated, and called for "a sacred retaliatory battle to blow up Cheong Wa Dae."
It was the first time the North Korean media have reported on Kim watching a joint armed forces drill or even mentioned an exercise by the armed forces on this scale.
Some fear that this goes beyond mere saber-rattling. "We aren't ruling out that the North will follow up" with another round of limited provocations, a senior South Korean government official said.
According to an informed source, the North Korean armed forces prepared for the joint drill in the West Sea on Jan. 14 and carried it out the following day. The threat to blow up the South Korean presidential office came immediately after the drill had finished on Jan. 15.
In a special program, the [North] Korean Central Television Station also reported Kim's attendance at the drill accompanied by four photos of him. One showed about 10 240-mm multiple rocket launchers with raised gun barrels. With a range of 60 km, the rocket launchers pose a direct threat to Seoul and vicinity.
But a Defense Ministry official dismissed the fears, saying the North Korean military has been carrying out the annual winter drills since December and their scale is not much bigger than in previous years.
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