Kim Jong-un pictured firing weapons as he vows North Korea will be ready for war

During Kim’s visit to an unspecified factory producing large-calibre artillery systems, he stressed the factory’s “important responsibilities and tasks in perfecting (the North’s) war readiness”, the country’s official Korean Central News Agency said.

Kim praised the factory’s efforts to employ “scientific and technological measures” to improve the quality of shells, reduce processing times for propellent tubes and increase manufacturing speed, but also called for the need to develop and produce new types of shells, KCNA reported.

At another factory manufacturing launcher trucks designed to transport and fire ballistic missiles, the leader said increasing the supply of the vehicles is a top priority for the military and complimented workers for establishing a “solid foundation” for production.

At a factory producing engines for cruise missiles and drones, the leader called for “rapidly expanding” production, KCNA said. His visits also included a small arms factory, where he stressed the need to modernise the weapons carried by soldiers. Photos published by state media showed Kim firing at least two different scoped rifles from a table.

In the face of deepening confrontations with Washington and Seoul, the North Korean leader has been trying to boost the visibility of his partnerships with Moscow and Beijing as he tries to break out of diplomatic isolation and insert himself into a united front against the US.

His tour of the weapons factories comes after a giant military parade last month in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, where Kim was joined by Sergei Shoigu, the Russian defence minister, and also a Chinese ruling party official.

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