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North Korea's Kim rides car given by Putin, oversees drills

By Joyce Lee

SEOUL (Reuters) -North Korean leader Kim Jong Un publicly rode in a car given to him by Russian President Vladimir Putin in "clear proof" of the strengthening friendship between the two countries, state media reported on Saturday.

Pyongyang and Moscow have forged closer ties since Kim met Putin in Russia in September and vowed to deepen military relations. They deny Western accusations that North Korea is supplying Russia with artillery shells and missiles used in Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

Kim's ride on Friday in the Russian Aurus limousine is "clear proof of the DPRK-Russia friendship, which is developing in a comprehensive way on a new high stage," the leader's sister Kim Yo Jong said, according to state media KCNA, using North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Kim Jong Un oversaw air warfare drills on Friday and urged "realistic" preparation for combat, KCNA said, after joint annual drills involving South Korea and the United States wrapped up this week.

"Only realistic training directly related to warfare can prepare soldiers as real combat fighters," Kim said, according to KCNA.

The South Korea-U.S. joint drills were the first since Pyongyang in November scrapped a 2018 inter-Korean military pact aimed at de-escalating tensions.

Kim also attended the opening ceremony of a greenhouse farm on Friday, KCNA said. Photos showed Kim's daughter Ju Ae attending the drills and the opening ceremony.

(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Chris Reese, Tom Hogue and William Mallard)