North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has overseen a special forces commando operation, state media said Thursday, as tensions soar with Washington over Pyongyang’s nuclear programme.
President Donald Trump has sent a naval “armada” to the Korean peninsula in a show of force, accompanied by a warning that Washington is ready to take on North Korea alone if necessary.
The North has since said it is ready for “war” with the US, while speculation is mounting that it might conduct a nuclear or missile test to mark the 105th birthday anniversary of founder Kim Il-Sung on Saturday.
The reclusive state has long been on a quest to develop a long-range missile capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead, and has so far staged five atomic tests, two of them last year.
On Thursday, the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim watched from an observation post as special forces dropped from light transport planes “like hail” and “mercilessly blew up enemy targets”.
With a broad smile on his face, Kim praised his troops for their precision, saying “the bullets seemed to have their own eyes”, KCNA said, without identifying when the operation was held.
The Rodong Sinmun -- the official mouthpiece of the ruling Workers’ Party -- carried several photos from the contest including one of Kim watching the troops parachuting down from jets into an open field.
Another showed him grinning from ear-to-ear as he walked by cheering soldiers.
“The contest proved once again that our Korean People’s Army... will show a real taste of gun shot and real taste of war to the reckless invaders,” KCNA said.
China -- the North’s sole major ally -- has urged the US president to take a peaceful approach to resolving the North Korean tensions.
Sabre-rattling between Washington and Pyonyang has unnerved China, which is losing patience with the North but whose priority remains preventing any instability on its doorstep.
Seoul and Washington are currently conducting joint military drills, an annual exercise which is seen by the North as a practice for war.