North Korea is making headlines again.
Several state media reported on Tuesday that the North Korean military will expand and intensify military drills for "war readiness" ahead of a major military parade.
The commitment was made at a meeting held on Monday under the leadership of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, following joint air exercises by South Korea and the United States last week.
The meeting's agenda included "the constant expansion and intensification of operations and combat exercises of the Korean People's Army (...) in order to strictly perfect the preparation for war", according to the KCNA official agency.
At the same time, private satellite images suggest that "significant preparations for a military parade" are underway in the capital Pyongyang, ahead of two national holidays which will take place in February (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).
North Korea fires salvo of missiles to cap year of record launches
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South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Tuesday that they are closely monitoring the areas around the Pyongyang military training ground, adding that they have seen a "sharp increase in personnel and vehicles" there in recent days.
Seoul and Washington last week held aerial drills with strategic bombers and stealth fighter jets, angering Pyongyang, which said such maneuvers could "trigger an all-out confrontation".
A North Korean balloon?
This show of force by the two allied powers comes after US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and his South Korean counterpart announced increased security cooperation against Pyongyang.
For North Korea, which sees the aerial maneuvers as rehearsals for an invasion of its territory, Seoul and Washington's decision to step up their joint drills crossed "an extreme red line", the North's minister said. -Korean Foreign Affairs.
The North Korean leader had called in early January for an "exponential increase in North Korea's nuclear arsenal", including the mass production of tactical nuclear weapons and the development of new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
Kim Jong Un also said his country must "massively strengthen (its) military strength" in 2023 in response to "worrying military maneuvers by the United States and other hostile forces".
South Korea's Defense Ministry said on Monday that a North Korean balloon had passed through its airspace over the weekend, but concluded it did not pose a threat.
It was believed to be a weather balloon, Yonhap news agency reported, citing officials.
The Ministry of Defense said it had taken "measures" without giving further details.