North Korea's Kim visits army unit that launched 2010 shelling of South
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has visited a frontline military detachment, state media reported, and reminded troops of their duty to fight a "sacred war" against any provocation by South Korea.
His visit, and his recent resumption of "field guidance" to military units, precede annual war games by allies South Korea and the United States. The military drills are scheduled to begin on Monday and continue until August 31.
State news agency KCNA said Kim, who came to power in December 2011 after the death of his father, visited the same artillery unit that launched a deadly attack on South Korea's Yeonpyeong island near the western sea border two years ago.
Kim inspected the unit on Mu island, which KCNA said was "stationed in the biggest hotspot in the southernmost part of the southwest front". The report was released on Friday and was monitored in the South on Saturday.
"He ordered the servicepersons ... not to miss their golden chance to deal at once deadly counter-blows at the enemy if even a single shell is dropped on the waters or in the area where the sovereignty of the DPRK is exercised," KCNA said of Kim's guidance to his Democratic People's Republic of Korea troops.
Kim also said the Korean People's Army should then "lead the battle to a sacred war for national reunification, not confining it to a local war on the southwest region", KCNA reported.
He also observed that Yeonpyeong island was "clearly visible" from the post on Mu island, according to KCNA.
Pyongyang, impoverished and isolated, has periodically used the term "sacred war" to counter what it sees as a threat from the South and its key ally the United States.
It has also branded this month's military drills "an all-out war rehearsal" for an invasion of the North.
Seoul and Washington say the drill, which will mobilise more than 85,000 servicemen, including some 30,000 U.S. troops, is only for defensive purposes.
In February, the North raised its level of military alert after South Korean and U.S. military staged live-fire artillery drills in the same area near the disputed sea border off the west coast.
The North's shelling of Yeonpyeong island in November 2010 killed four people, including two civilians, and was the first attack on civilians since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. The two sides are technically still at war, having signed only a truce rather than a peace treaty.
It was not clear from the KCNA report when Kim visited the military unit on Mu island. KCNA reported earlier this month he had also visited an army unit identified only as "Unit 552".
Kim, in his late twenties, has focused many of his trips since inheriting dynastic power on encouraging workers and promoting nationwide economic projects.
That prompted many East Asia watchers to speculate he might have given up on the military-first policies of his father, Kim Jong-il.
(Reporting by Sung-won Shim; Editing by Paul Tait)