North Korea recently made the shocking claim that about 800,000 of its citizens have volunteered to join or reenlist in its military to fight against the US and South Korea. This happened after North Korea fired its Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on March 16, 2023, in response to the US and South Korea’s ongoing military drills.
According to North Korea’s state newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, about 800,000 students and workers across the country expressed their desire to enlist or reenlist in the Korean People’s Army (KPA) on Friday, March 17 alone. The newspaper described them as the “young vanguard,” who are “fully armed with the indomitable will of the party to deal with the enemies and settle accounts with the US.” The newspaper also put out four pictures of people waiting in line to sign documents in different places.
North Korea is one of the most isolated and secretive countries in the world, so it’s hard to check the claim on your own. But some experts aren’t sure if it’s true. They say it could be an exaggeration or a way to spread propaganda to boost morale and loyalty among the people.
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North Korea has a system that forces men to serve in the military for 10 years and forces women to serve for 3 years. However, many conscripts are often sent to do hard labour at construction sites or farms across the country. Therefore, even if North Korea did recruit 800,000 new soldiers in one day, it does not necessarily mean that its military strength will increase by that amount.
Some analysts have also said that North Korea’s claim may be a reaction to a number of recent events that have made things more tense on the Korean peninsula. These include:
- The joint military exercises between the US and South Korea, dubbed “Freedom Shield 23,” which began on Monday, March 13, and will last for 11 days, these are held on a scale not seen since 2017 and are meant to counter North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threats.
- The summit meeting between South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo on Thursday, March 16. The two leaders talked about how they could work together to get North Korea to stop making nuclear weapons and to settle old disagreements.
- The planned state visit by President Yoon Suk Yeol and his wife, Kim Jung Sook, to Washington, DC, on April 26 This will be only the second state visit by US President Joe Biden since he took office in January 2021. The visit will underscore close ties between
- the US and South Korea and their shared commitment to addressing North Korea’s challenges
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has accused these events of being provocations by his enemies who are trying to start a nuclear war. He has also vowed to continue developing his country’s nuclear weapons programme until he achieves what he calls “the final victory.” He has also told his enemies that he will take “corresponding measures” if they don’t stop being mean.
North Korea’s missile launch on Thursday was seen as one such measure. It was also seen as a demonstration of its technological advancement and defiance of international sanctions. According to North Korean state media KCNA, the Hwasong-17 ICBM can carry a large nuclear warhead capable of striking anywhere in mainland US territory.
But some experts aren’t sure if North Korea has really mastered everything it needs to know to send a nuclear weapon over long distances. They have pointed out that there is no evidence that North Korea has tested a reentry vehicle or miniaturised a nuclear warhead sufficiently for an ICBM. They have also noted that North Korea has not conducted any nuclear tests since September 2017.
Some experts have suggested that, instead of escalating the situation with North Korea or getting into a fight over its missile launch,
The US should pursue dialogue and diplomacy with Pyongyang while maintaining pressure through sanctions. They have argued that this may be more effective than relying solely on military deterrence or coercion.