North Korea says 800,000 youths volunteered to join army to fight ‘US imperialists’

North Korea’s state media said on Saturday (March 18) that 800,000 young North Koreans have volunteered and joined the nation’s army to fight “US imperialists.” The development has come just days after Pynogyang carried out test of its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile. North Korea has carried out record number of missile tests in last one year.

This has prompted South Korea and the US to ramp up security co-opeartion. This week, both countries have kicked off their largest joint military drills in five years.   

North Korea views all such exercises as rehearsals for invasion and has repeatedly warned it would take “overwhelming” action in response.

The official Korean Central News Agency described the ongoing drills as an American attempt “to provoke a nuclear war” and said that in response, hundreds of thousands of people had enlisted.

The young volunteers are determined to “mercilessly wipe out the war maniacs” so they joined the army to “defend the country”, KCNA said.

“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, it added.

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.

On Saturday, KCNA said the ongoing drills were “inching close to the unpardonable red-line”.

Last year, North Korea declared itself an “irreversible” nuclear power, and leader Kim Jong Un 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,” Yang Moo-jin, president of the University of  North Korean Studies in Seoul, told AFP.

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.

(With inputs from agencies)

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