Pyongyang has reported that on May 4, Kim Jong Un observed an east coast firing drill of “large-caliber long-range multiple rocket launchers and tactical guided weapons.” That would seem to undercut considerable speculation in US and South Korean media that this was either a move to protest the failure of the US-DPRK summit in Hanoi in February or to signal Washington a tougher policy on Kim’s part. It is much more likely that the drill was the “corresponding measure” that Pyongyang had warned of in an April 25 statement by the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country (CPRC), blasting Seoul for continuing military exercises and other activity the North claims is contrary to inter-Korean agreements reached since the first inter-Korean summit in April 2018.
Both the recent drill and the North’s reporting that Kim had supervised it are in line with criticism of the South in Kim’s speech last month to the Supreme People’s Assembly. In that speech, Kim had pointedly noted, “We have to always keep in mind that peace can be ensured only by powerful military capabilities, and firmly maintain the principle of self-defence and keep increasing the defense capabilities of the country.”
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