SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea has conducted artillery drills to bolster its defense capability, state media reported Sunday, its latest weapons test as Pyongyang continues to press Washington and Seoul to abandon what they call their hostile policy.
An artillery firing competition between mechanized units took place on Saturday, attended by senior government and military officials, Korea’s official Central News Agency reported.
Leader Kim Jong Un was not mentioned in the report, suggesting he did not observe the training. He supervised a similar artillery firing exercise last year.
This year’s exercises were designed to inspect the progress of mechanized units in their mobile combat capabilities and to further intensify competitive training across the northern army, KCNA said.
Since September, North Korea has tested a series of newly developed missiles, including nuclear-capable weapons that put US allies South Korea and Japan within striking range. Some experts say North Korea wants its rivals to accept it as a nuclear-powered state and is working to ease international sanctions against the country.
The North’s artillery tests attract less outside attention than its missile tests, particularly ballistic weapon launches which are banned by multiple UN Security Council resolutions. But its long-range artillery pieces deployed near the border with South Korea pose a serious threat to the populated southern metropolitan area and other areas, experts said.
US-led talks to end North Korea’s nuclear program collapsed in early 2019 amid wrangling over sanctions. US officials recently offered a resumption of talks with North Korea without any preconditions. The North has said it will not return to the talks unless the United States first abandons what Pyongyang calls its hostile policy, an apparent reference to sanctions and regular military drills between Washington and Seoul.