North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un inspected a military unit that was responsible for bombarding a southern island, state media said today ahead of a presidential election in the South. Pyongyang fired a barrage of 170 artillery shells onto Yeonpyeong island in November 2010, killing four people including two civilians in the first North Korean attack on a civilian area since the 1950-53 Korean War. Tensions have soared on the Korean peninsula in recent weeks amid a string of missile launches by Pyongyang and speculation that the regime was preparing to conduct a sixth nuclear test, with Washington warning that military action was an “option on the table” to confront its nuclear and missile programmes.
The North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim visited military detachments on Jangjae and Mu islets and was briefed on the “recent movements of the enemy”. Kim looked at Yeonpyeong from an observation post and “examined the plan for fire strike of the newly organised forces at the objects of the enemy”, KCNA said. The Mu islet unit was responsible for the bombardment of Yeonpyeong, which KCNA quoted Kim as calling “the most delightful battle”.
The North’s artillery should “should keep highly alert to break the backbone of the enemy once ordered”, he added. KCNA did not give an exact date for his visit. The North regularly issues threats of military action without following through on them.
But it carried out a controversial supposed satellite launch — which Seoul and Washington say was a covert test of a long-range missile — just a week before the last presidential election in 2012. The two neighbours are technically still at war, as the Korean War ended with an armistice that was never ratified by a formal peace treaty, and the border remains one of the most militarised places in the world.