Once more, North Korea is in the news. In advance of a significant military parade, the North Korean military will increase and intensify military maneuvers for “war preparation,” according to a number of state media outlets on Tuesday. Following joint air exercises by South Korea and the United States last week, the commitment was made at a meeting on Monday chaired by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

According to the official KCNA news agency, the meeting’s agenda included “the constant expansion and escalation of operations and combat exercises of the Korean People’s Army (…) in order to strictly perfect the preparedness for war.” The capital Pyongyang is reportedly making “major preparations for a military parade” in advance of two national holidays in February, according to private satellite pictures (the 8th for the anniversary of the founding of its armed forces, and on February 16, for the birthday of Kim Jong Il, father and predecessor of the current North Korean leader).

The Pyongyang military training facility is being constantly watched, according to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, who also noted that there has been a “dramatic increase in personnel and vehicles” there recently. Strategic bombers and stealth fighter fighters were used in Seoul and Washington’s aerial exercises last week, infuriating Pyongyang, which warned that such actions may “spark an all-out confrontation”.

A balloon from North Korea?

The US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and his South Korean counterpart announced stronger security cooperation against Pyongyang prior to the two partner nations’ display of force. The decision by Seoul and Washington to intensify their joint drills crossed “an absolute red line” for North Korea, which views the aerial manoeuvres as practice for an invasion of its territory, according to the North’s minister of foreign affairs.

Early in January, the North Korean leader had called for a “exponential rise in the nuclear arsenal” of his country, calling for the construction of new intercontinental ballistic missiles as well as the mass manufacture of tactical nuclear weapons (ICBMs). In 2023, Kim Jong Un also stated that in response to “concerning military moves by the United States and other hostile forces,” his nation must “massively increase (its) military might”.

The Defense Ministry of South Korea reported on Monday that a North Korean balloon had flown across its airspace over the weekend, but that it had not been deemed dangerous. According to officials quoted by the Yonhap news agency, it was thought to be a weather balloon. Without elaborating, the Ministry of Defense claimed to have taken “actions.”

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