North Korean leader guides flight training against South Korea-US air drill

SEOUL (THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has guided a flight training of its air force unit, the North's state media reported on Tuesday, seen in response to the ongoing Seoul-Washington air exercises.

During his visit to the Korean People's Army Air and Anti-Air Force Unit 188 on Monday, Mr Kim gave an order to start the training "to defend the country", the North's Korean Central News Agency said in an English dispatch, Yonhap reported.

Watching the flying corps' performance "to mercilessly blow up the citadel of enemies and wipe out the enemies to the last one," Mr Kim expressed satisfaction with the "successful" training, according to the KCNA.

"An air battle allows no moment's delay," Mr Kim said, instructing the unit "to intensify the training to fully prepare the airpersons as death-defying corps and able combat pilots capable of skillfully fighting a modern warfare," the media reported.

The young leader was accompanied by Mr Jang Jong Nam, the minister of the People's Armed Forces, and Mr So Hong Chan, first-vice minister of the People's Armed Forces, as well as several other senior party officials, Yonhap reported.

Mr Kim's visit to the air force unit is seen as a response to the ongoing annual Max Thunder exercise by South Korea and the United States. The drill, which is being held from April 11 to 25 to boost their air defense capability, involves about 103 warplanes and 1,400 pilots, and is their largest-ever joint air exercise.

Last week, the allies finished the two-month-long Foal Eagle exercise after conducting a series of combat field trainings aimed at enhancing their joint combat readiness against North Korea. They also held a two-week war game called the Key Resolve from Feb 24 to March 6, involving 10,000 South Korean troops and 5,200 American forces to improve joint deterrence, drawing angry responses from Pyongyang that claimed the exercises were "a rehearsal for war" against it.

About 28,500 US troops are stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.