Russia, China sending officials to North Korea is ‘interesting’ and ‘significant on a few fronts’: Dr. Mark Esper
Dr. Mark Esper, former Defense Secretary under Trump, discusses China and Russia sending officials to North Korea amid rising tensions and reports of Wagner Group troops moving near NATO territory.
North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un has ordered a massive increase in the production of missiles and other weapons after touring major munitions factories over the weekend, state media said Monday. The announcement comes just days ahead of the South Korean and U.S. militaries beginning joint drills next week to strengthen their partnership amid the North’s continued nuclear threats.
The Korean Central News Agency said the North’s leader visited factories producing missiles, mobile launch platforms, armored vehicles and artillery shells on Friday and Saturday. At one of the missile factories, Kim ordered it to “drastically boost” its production capabilities so match the war-ready needs of front-line military units, KCNA reported.
“The qualitative level of war preparations depends on the development of the munitions industry and the factory bears a very important responsibility in speeding up the war preparations of the (North) Korean People’s Army,” Kim said, per KCNA.
According to the report, Kim said North Korea must have “an overwhelming military force and get fully prepared for coping with any war” with the power to “surely annihilate” its enemies.
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In this undated photo provided on Monday, Aug. 14, 2023, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, rides on an armored vehicle during his Aug. 11-12 visit to a military factory in North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
The push for more missiles and weapons also comes as Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu spoke to North Korean officials during a visit to Pyongyang last month about increasing the sale of munitions to Moscow as it continues its 530-plus day invasion of Ukraine, U.S. officials said.
During stops at the other factories, Kim called for building modern missile launch trucks and expressed an urgent need to boost production of large-caliber multiple rocket launcher shells “at an exponential rate,” the report said.
During another visit, Kim also drove a new utility combat armored vehicle, KCNA said.
In this undated photo provided on Monday, Aug. 14, 2023, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, smiles in front of a military vehicle, during his Aug. 11-12 visit to a military factory in North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
Kim’s push for enlarging his nuclear and missile arsenals comes after the Biden administration has been unable to replicate the success of the high-stakes diplomacy of then-President Donald Trump in June 2019.
Since the start of 2022, the North Korean military has conducted more than 100 missile tests. Most have been in specific retaliation or warning the U.S. and South Korea over their joint military training exercises.
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Experts say Kim eventually wants to use his arsenal of modernized weapons and nuclear threats to gain U.S. concessions, such as sanctions relief. Pyongyang currently does not engage in diplomacy with Washington.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Pyongyang, North Korea, in July. (API/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
North Korea, which has been trying to bolster its ties to China and Russia, has denied claims that it shipped artillery shells and ammunition to Moscow. North Korea has publicly supported Russia in the war and has hinted at sending support.
North Korea is expected to perform additional weapons tests as the U.S. and South Korea are set to start joint military exercises next Monday, which the North claims are practice for an invasion. The allied countries say they have no intention of attacking North Korea.
The U.S.-South Korean drills, called Ulchi Freedom Shield, are a computer-simulated command post exercise. This year’s exercise, which is scheduled to run through until Aug. 31, includes large-scale field training events which will reportedly be the largest of their kind in recent years.
In this undated photo provided on Monday, Aug. 14, 2023, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, visits a military factory during his Aug. 11-12 visit, in North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesperson, Col. Lee Sung-jun, told reporters that this year’s UFS drills are aimed at further strengthening the allies’ response capabilities.
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The simulations include responding to North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile capabilities and other regional security situations, he added.
Col. Isaac L. Taylor, a spokesperson for the U.S. military, said at the same news conference that the drills are designed to be “a tough and realistic exercise.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.