North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for a drastic boost in missile production, according to state-run media.
Kim reportedly inspected key munitions factories and is also requesting a ramp-up in the production of rocket-launcher shells and other weapons.
This latest provocation follows a series of escalatory moves by Pyongyang’s leadership, which told citizens to get “fully prepared” for war earlier in the month.
As stated by KCNA, Kim articulated that “The [Korean People’s Army] should have an overwhelming military force and get fully prepared for coping with any war at any moment so as to prevent the enemies from daring to use their armed forces, and surely annihilate them if they launch an attack.”
What is North Korea Doing?
Pyongyang’s reported shift to producing additional munitions and weapons comes as the Pentagon believes North Korea could be shoring up to supply more military equipment to Russia. An unusual sighting of a Russian military airframe in Pyongyang last week suggests that the two rogue allies are working together amid their mutual isolation from the international community.
Both nations detest what they perceive as American hegemony, making the U.S.-South Korean partnership and American-supplied weapons to Ukraine catalysts for cooperation between Pyongyang and Moscow.
The Russian-North Korean Partnership Grows
According to KCNA, Kim’s factory visit tour included facilities that develop tactical missiles, armored vehicles, and artillery shells. Moscow is facing extreme shortages of these assets. Since the onset of their invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces have lost at least 2,000 main battle tanks.
Many of these armored vehicles were destroyed by Ukraine’s arsenal of NATO-provided anti-tank weapons and drones, while others were left behind or captured along the frontlines.
The U.S., Britain, and Germany have pledged to provide Kyiv with dozens of advanced MBTs to aid its defense efforts, including the M1A1 Abrams, Challenger and Leopard 2 tanks.
Moscow could be turning toward its North Korean ally in order to supplement its diminishing stockpile of Soviet-era MBTs like the T-54/T-55 and T-72.
Regardless of any potential military cooperation between Moscow and Pyongyang, Kim’s expanding nuclear and missile arsenals is a great concern.
In fact, experts estimate that the Hermit Kingdom has launched more than 100 missile tests since 2022. The Kim regime has said its provocations are a response to the strengthening relationship between Seoul and Washington.
Next week, South Korea and the U.S. will begin their joint summer military drills, which Kim claims simulate an invasion of the North.
In July, Kim’s powerful sister threatened that Pyongyang would take down U.S. spy planes if they were to enter the country’s exclusive economic zone.
Her hostile rhetoric was followed by threats of nuclear retaliation over American displays of military force on the peninsula, indicating a clear escalation.
Once the Seoul-Washington drills begin on Monday, Pyongyang will likely launch additional missile tests.
Kim showed off the country’s new Hwasong-18 solid-fueled ICBM at its annual Victory Day Parade event after test-firing the weapon in August.
Once the Kim regime inevitably retaliates for the planned military drills between its top adversary and southern neighbor, the Biden administration’s response will be closely watched.
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.
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