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Kim Jong-un urges ‘realistic’ combat preparations as he oversees air warfare drills

 North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) inspecting a training exercise of the Korean People’s Army at an undisclosed location (KCNA VIA KNS/AFP via Getty Image)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) inspecting a training exercise of the Korean People’s Army at an undisclosed location (KCNA VIA KNS/AFP via Getty Image)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un oversaw air warfare drills and urged “realistic” preparation for combat in response to the annual joint drill between South Korea and the US.

“Only realistic training directly related to warfare can prepare soldiers as real combat fighters,” Mr Kim said, according to state media Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The military drills in the Hermit Kingdom were conducted after South Korea and the US concluded their joint drills earlier this week. The joint drills, known as the Freedom Shield exercises, were the first since Pyongyang in November scrapped a 2018 inter-Korean military pact aimed at de-escalating tensions.

The 11-day event saw participation from an unprecedented number of member states from the US-led United Nations Command, which has been operational as part of the armistice that concluded the 1950-1953 Korean War.

Mr Kim views his rivals’ exercises as a rehearsal for an invasion.

The parachuting training was the latest and the fourth reported instance of Mr Kim observing North's military exercises since the start of the South Korean-US drills. North Korea has intensified missile launches since 2022 and ramped up belligerent rhetoric this year.

After supervising the air warfare drills on Friday, Mr Kim expressed satisfaction with the troops’ readiness and ordered training to cope with all kinds of topography, weather, time, and the most severe conditions, according to KCNA.

Earlier this week, he drove a new tank model while overseeing a simulated battle showcasing the North's military prowess. The simulated harsh combat showcased a new type of vehicle which the North Korean leader called the “most powerful tank in the world”.

Meanwhile, the leader's sister and senior official, Kim Yo-jong said her brother used a Russian luxury limousine gifted by Russian president Vladimir Putin as she praised the car’s “special function” and the deepening ties between the nations.

In February, Mr Putin sent his North Korean counterpart a high-end Aurus Senat limousine, which he had showcased to Mr Kim during their summit in Russia in September. Observers have noted that the shipment violates a US resolution intended to pressure North Korea into abandoning its nuclear weapons program by banning the supply of luxury items to the country.

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un overseeing militray drills along with his daugter (KCNA VIA KNS/AFP via Getty Image)
North Korea’s Kim Jong-un overseeing militray drills along with his daugter (KCNA VIA KNS/AFP via Getty Image)

“The special function of the private car is perfect and can be thoroughly trusted,” Ms Kim Yo-jong said, without specifying.

“Kim Jong-un’s using of the private car sent by the president of the Russian Federation as a gift is a clear proof of (North Korea)-Russia friendship, which is developing in a comprehensive way on a new high stage.”

According to Russian state media, Aurus is the first Russian luxury car brand, and it has been used in the motorcades of top officials since Putin first used an Aurus limousine during his inauguration ceremony in 2018.

Mr Kim possesses a collection of foreign-made luxury cars believed to have been smuggled into his country.

During his visit to Russia, he travelled between meeting sites in a Maybach limousine that was brought with him in one of his special train carriages. Other limousines he has reportedly used include a Mercedes-Maybach S600 Pullman Guard and a Maybach S62.