North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, center, reacts to scientists and technicians cheering as he visits the state academy of science in Pyongseong. South Korea said Thursday it was scrutinizing North Korea's military activities following a series of publicized army visits by leader Kim Jong-Un. (KCNA VIA KNS / AFP)
SEOUL — South Korea said Thursday it was scrutinizing North Korea’s military activities following a series of publicized army visits by leader Kim Jong-Un.
The North’s state media has given prominent coverage in recent days to Kim’s visits to two strategic units — including a paratroop brigade — both of which demonstrated their ability to destroy enemy installations “at lightning speed.”
Kim heads the North’s top military body, the National Defence Commission, and such inspection tours are not unusual.
But the latest visits come as South Korea is warning Pyongyang might be planning some sort of provocation ahead of South Korea-US joint military drills scheduled to begin late February.
Top South Korean officials, including the intelligence chief and defense minister, held a security meeting Thursday at the presidential Blue House.
Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok told reporters that Seoul was following the recent string of Kim visits with “keen interest.”
Kim noted that both units visited by the North Korean leader were “offensive in nature” and cited intelligence reports that the North had, in recent years, doubled the number of strategic troops trained in infiltration to 200,000.
“The frequent media coverage of such (military) visits seem to underscore the possibility of the North’s potential provocations targeting the South,” the spokesman said.
Pyongyang has condemned the South’s annual joint drills with the US military as a rehearsal for invasion and warned of an “unimaginable holocaust” if they go ahead again this year.
South Korea also believes the North may be spoiling for a confrontation as a way of cementing national unity after the shock execution last month of Kim Jong-Un’s uncle and political mentor Jang Song-Thaek.
Jang’s purging — the biggest political upheaval since Kim took power two years ago — raised questions of potential instability in the isolated, nuclear-armed state.