North Korea has claimed that about 800,000 of its citizens have volunteered to join or reenlist in the nation’s military to fight against the United States.
About 800,000 students and workers, on Friday alone, across the country expressed a desire to enlist or reenlist in the military to counter the United States, North Korea’s state newspaper Rodong Sinmun newspaper reported on Saturday.
The claim came after North Korea on Thursday launched its Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in response to ongoing US-South Korea military drills.
North Korea fired the ICBM into the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan on Thursday, hours before South Korea’s president flew to Tokyo for a summit that discussed ways to counter the nuclear-armed North.
The North’s ballistic missiles are banned under United Nations Security Council resolutions and the launch drew condemnation from governments in Seoul, Washington and Tokyo.
South Korean and American forces began 11 days of joint drills, dubbed “Freedom Shield 23,” on Monday, held on a scale not seen since 2017 to counter the North’s growing threats.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un accused the United States and South Korea of increasing tensions with the military drills.
North Korea often responds to what it sees as “provocations” by the US by making bellicose threats. Experts say that in addition to the joint military exercises and the meeting this week between South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japan’s leader Fumio Kishida it has taken exception to US President Joe Biden’s plan to host Yoon and his wife at the White House next month.
The state visit will be the second of Biden’s presidency, underscoring close ties between the US and South Korea, and will take place April 26. The conservative Yoon and his administration have made strengthening the US-South Korea alliance a key foreign policy priority. Biden, likewise, has sought to nurture the relationship, including with the symbolic marker of his trip to Seoul in May 2022, his first stop on his inaugural trip to Asia as president.
Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, told CNN recently that in response to the drills and the summits, Pyongyang might “order missile firings of longer ranges, attempt a spy satellite launch, demonstrate a solid-fuel engine, and perhaps even conduct a nuclear test.”