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North Korean Leader Kim Directs Military in Island-Assault Drill

North Korea Missile Launch
People watch a TV news program showing a missile launch conducted by North Korea, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, on June 29, 2014. Photographer: Ahn Young-joon/AP Photo

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un directed an island-assault drill by combined units of his ground, naval and air forces, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

Kim gave the order to start the drill, which began with artillery bombardment followed by infantry and paratroop assaults, and later praised the performance as excellent, KCNA said today. It didn’t say when and where the drill was held.

“Huge pillars of flames shot up from the island of the ‘enemies’ in succession,” KCNA said. Kim instructed commanding officers to organize more drills in the future “always bearing in mind training means a battle,” according to KCNA.

The report comes days after rocket launches by the North, including one in which Kim oversaw the test firing of new “ultra-precision” guided missiles. Chinese President Xi Jinping this week visited South Korea, becoming the nation’s first leader to tour Seoul ahead of Pyongyang since the establishment of diplomatic ties with South Korea in 1992.

Xi and his South Korean counterpart Park Geun Hye said they won’t tolerate the development of nuclear arms on the Korean peninsula and called for a revival of disarmament talks with North Korea after their summit meeting on July 3.

“Both sides agreed that members of the six-party talks should create conditions for reviving the talks by reaching a common understanding,” Park said at a joint press conference with Xi in Seoul. The talks involve the two Koreas, the U.S, Japan, Russia and China.

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As one of North Korea’s few allies and its biggest trading partner, China has the leverage to apply pressure to a country that has conducted three nuclear tests since 2006. Xi said he supports the peaceful unification of the Koreas, while Park called for trust-building with the North before they can unify to pursue economic prosperity.

The North earlier this year fired almost 90 projectiles, including Scud and Rodong missiles, over a period of four weeks and stepped up activity at its nuclear test site. On March 30 it said it may conduct a “new form” of nuclear test.

Test Ban

North Korea is banned from testing or developing ballistic missiles under sanctions imposed by the United Nations for its nuclear tests. The country has 1.2 million troops and faces South Korea over one of the world’s most heavily fortified borders after their 1950-53 war ended in a truce.

Separately, Japan said this week it will ease sanctions on North Korea, including a ban on North Koreans entering the country, after the isolated nation said it would start a new investigation into abductees and other Japanese living there.

North Korea admitted in 2002 to abducting 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s, mostly to help train its spies. It returned five of them later that year, saying the others were dead.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called the issue one of the most important for his administration. The abductions have long complicated Japan’s attempts to deal with the threats of North Korea’s missile launches and nuclear weapons tests.

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