North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered his military to strengthen war preparations.
Kim was photographed at a military meeting on Monday, marking the first time he has been seen in public after more than a month.
His 36-day break from the spotlight sparked speculation regarding his health. It is Kim’s longest break since 2014, when he was not seen for 40 days.
During the meeting of the central military commission of the ruling Workers’ Party, Kim discussed “the major military and political tasks for 2023 and the long-term issues concerning the orientation for army building.”
The North Korean leader ordered his military to expand combat exercises and intensify their operation and combat drills as tensions have risen in the Korean Peninsula after Pyongyang condemned planned joint military drills between South Korea and the U.S.
An unidentified spokesperson for North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said the expansion of the military drills by the U.S. is threatening to turn the peninsula into a “huge war arsenal and a more critical war zone,” adding that Pyongyang is prepared to counter with the “most overwhelming nuclear force.”
Photos of the meeting featured new flags for all of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) branches, including the Missile General Bureau.
Its flag features an image of the country’s Hwasong-17, which is its largest nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile.
Pyongyang reportedly launched more than 70 ballistic missiles in 2022 for testing, including a banned nuclear-capable intercontinental missile capable of reaching the U.S.
The meeting took place before the 75th anniversary of the KPA’s founding, which will be held on Wednesday.
The event, which Kim is expected to attend, will likely be celebrated with a military parade in Pyongyang.
A daily dose of Asian America's essential stories, in under 5 minutes.
Get our collection of Asian America's most essential stories to your inbox daily for free.
Unsure? Check out our Newsletter Archive.