According to North Korean state media, around 800,000 young people have volunteered for military service in response to military drills between the US and South Korea. The country’s state newspaper, Rodong Sinmum, reported that the volunteers had signed up for enlistment or re-enlistment in the military at state-organised events on Friday. The report featured photos of people waiting in long lines to sign their names at construction sites and other outdoor venues. The volunteers promised to “completely wipe out” North Korea’s enemies and unify the two Koreas.
The young volunteers were described as the country’s “youth vanguard” and had stepped up “at once to join the war to defend the homeland and the war to destroy the enemy”. The report stated that they were responding to provocative acts by the US and South Korea, referred to in the newspaper report as “US imperialists and puppet traitors” bent on destroying North Korea’s “independence and right to live and develop”. The youth volunteers were determined to “mercilessly wipe out the war fanatics who are making a last-ditch effort to erase our socialist fatherland”.
Although the ages of those who signed up were not announced, all men in North Korea must serve in the military for at least 10 years and women for at least three years due to the country’s conscription system. The mass enlistment on Friday came a day after North Korea launched a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which Pyongyang said had travelled some 1,000km (620 miles) “before accurately landing” at a pre-set location in the East Sea of Korea, which is also known as the Sea of Japan.
North Korea said it launched the Hwasong-17 in response to “provocative and aggressive” military drills underway between the US and South Korea. Pyongyang regards the joint exercises as a rehearsal by Washington and Seoul for an invasion of the North. South Korean and US forces began 11 days of joint military drills, dubbed “Freedom Shield 23”, on Monday.
The Hwasong ICBM’s launch on Thursday took place just hours before South Korea’s president flew to Tokyo for a summit with the country’s prime minister that had focused on ways for Seoul and Japan to cooperate in countering the military threat posed by North Korea. The Tokyo summit between South Korea’s Yoon Suk-yeol and Japan’s Fumio Kishida was the first visit to Japan by a South Korean president in 12 years. The visit comes amid an unprecedented number of ballistic missile launches and other weapons tests by North Korea over the past several months.