North Korea claims 800,000 people joined army to fight 'US imperialists' in one day alone
More than 800,000 young North Koreans volunteered to join the army to fight "US imperialists" in just one day this week, state media said, days after Pyongyang test-fired its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile.
The recruitment drive comes as the US and South Korea kicked off their largest joint military drills in five years this week, which North Korean state media described as an attempt to "provoke a nuclear war". In response, it said that throngs of North Korean citizens had rushed to enlist, with photos purportedly showing long queues to sign up.
"More than 800,000 youth league officials and students across the country volunteered to join and rejoin the Korean People's Army" on Friday alone, the Korean Central News Agency reported.
The young volunteers are determined to "mercilessly wipe out the war maniacs" and joined the army to "defend the country", KCNA said.
Images released by Rodong Sinmun, the official mouthpiece of the Workers' Party of Korea, showed young North Koreans waiting in long lines to sign their names at what looks like a construction site.
It comes after North Korea launched a record-breaking amount of weapons tests last year and ramped up nuclear threats.
On Thursday, Pyongyang test-fired its largest and most powerful missile, a Hwasong-17, in its second test of an intercontinental ballistic missile this year.
State media described the launch as a response to the US-South Korea joint military drills.
On Saturday, KCNA said the ongoing drills were "inching close to the unpardonable red line".
Pyongyang is using the drills to justify its nuclear weapons programme domestically as "crucial and necessary," said Yang Moo-jin, president of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.
This involves "spreading the idea that the South Korea-US military drills ultimately aim to destroy the current North Korean regime and even occupy its capital Pyongyang," Mr Yang added.
Last year, North Korea declared itself an "irreversible" nuclear power, and leader Kim Jong Un recently called for an "exponential" increase in weapons production, including tactical nukes.
Kim earlier this month also ordered the North Korean military to intensify drills to prepare for a "real war".