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N Korea at crossroads

North Korea calls for stronger war readiness posture, more drills

Statement comes amid preparations in Pyongyang for expected military parade

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, presides over a military meeting in Pyongyang on Feb. 6.   © Reuters

SEOUL (Reuters) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged to expand military drills and beef up the country's war readiness posture, state media reported on Tuesday, as Pyongyang prepares to mark a military anniversary.

Kim presided over the meeting of the central military commission of the ruling Workers' Party on Monday where officials discussed "major military and political tasks" for this year and the "long-term issues concerning the orientation for army building," KCNA news agency said.

"Studied and discussed there were ... the issue of constantly expanding and intensifying the operation and combat drills of the KPA to cope with the prevailing situation and more strictly perfecting the preparedness for war," KCNA said, referring to the Korean People's Army.

The meeting comes as North Korea is widely expected to stage a military parade to mark the founding anniversary of its armed forces on Wednesday.

Commercial satellite imagery has shown North Korean troops practicing in formation in Pyongyang, and South Korea has also said it was monitoring increased related activities.

The military meeting also follows North Korea on Thursday condemning drills by the United States and its allies, saying they have reached an "extreme redline" and threaten to turn the peninsula into a "huge war arsenal and a more critical war zone."

In Thursday's statement, the North Korean foreign ministry condemned a visit to South Korea by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and said Pyongyang was not interested in dialogue as long as Washington pursues hostile policies.

Last Tuesday, Austin and his South Korean counterpart said they would expand military drills and deploy more "strategic assets," such as aircraft carriers and long-range bombers, to counter North Korea's weapons development and prevent a war.

When asked about the tensions with North Korea during a stop in the Philippines, Austin said that the U.S. goal was to promote greater security and stability and that it remained committed to defending South Korea.

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