18th March 2023 – (Pyongyang) State media announced on Saturday that more than 800,000 young North Koreans have volunteered to join the army and fight against “U.S. imperialists.” This news comes only days after Pyongyang test-fired its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile, and after a record-breaking year of weapons tests and growing nuclear threats from the nation.
Seoul and Washington have responded to the increased threat by ramping up their security cooperation and starting their largest joint military drills in five years. However, North Korea views all such exercises as rehearsals for invasion and has warned that it would take “overwhelming” action in response.
The ongoing joint drills are being described as an American attempt “to provoke a nuclear war” by the official Korean Central News Agency, which went on to state that hundreds of thousands of people had enlisted in response. The young volunteers are determined to “mercilessly wipe out the war maniacs” by joining the army to “defend the country.”
According to KCNA, “more than 800,000 youth league officials and students across the country volunteered to join and rejoin the Korean People’s Army” on Friday alone. Images released by Pyongyang’s official Rodong Sinmun showed young North Koreans waiting in long lines to sign their names at what looks like a construction site.
The latest report comes after Pyongyang test-fired its largest and most powerful missile, a Hwasong-17, on Thursday – its second ICBM test this year. State media has described the launch as a response to the ongoing, “frantic” US-South Korea joint military drills.
North Korea declared itself an “irreversible” nuclear power last year, and leader Kim Jong Un has recently called for an “exponential” increase in weapons production, including tactical nukes. Kim earlier this month also ordered the North Korean military to intensify drills to prepare for a “real war.”
Pyongyang is using the drills to justify their nuclear weapons program domestically as “crucial and necessary,” according to Yang Moo-jin, president of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. This involves “spreading the idea that the South Korea-US military drills ultimately aim to destroy the current North Korean regime and even occupy its capital Pyongyang,” Yang added.
As tensions continue to rise on the Korean peninsula, the international community is closely monitoring the situation and urging all parties to exercise restraint.