North Korea calls for its 1.2 million troops to show greater loyalty to Kim

Country urges soldiers to unite behind leader as it marks his 10th anniversary as supreme commander

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North Korea on Thursday urged its 1.2 million troops to unite behind leader Kim Jong-un and defend him with their lives as it marked the 10th anniversary of his ascension to supreme commander of the military.

Earlier this month, North Korea commemorated 10 years since the death of former leader Kim Jong-il.

Born in January 1984, Kim Jong-un is the youngest son of Kim Jong-il.

After his father's death from a sudden heart attack on December 17, 2011, he assumed power, beginning a period of manoeuvres back and forth with the outside world.

The anniversary of Mr Kim's ascension comes as North Korea is holding a key multi-day political conference in which officials are expected to discuss how to address difficulties brought by the pandemic and long-dormant diplomacy with the US.

Some experts say Mr Kim has been grappling with the toughest moment of his 10-year rule due to the coronavirus pandemic, UN sanctions and his own mismanagement.

In a lengthy editorial, the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said that North Korea's military commanders and soldiers must become an “impregnable fortress and bulletproof walls in devotedly defending (Kim) with their lives”.

It also called for the building of a more modern, advanced military that serves as a “reliable guardian of our state and people”. The editorial said all of North Korea’s troops and people must uphold Kim’s leadership to establish a powerful socialist country.

Observers say North Korea will be likely to disclose Mr Kim’s stances on relations with Washington and Seoul, the deadlocked nuclear diplomacy and the economic hardships at the end of the plenary meeting expected later this week.

An arsenal of as many as 60 nuclear weapons, by some estimates, with the means to add as many as 18 more a year, has allowed Mr Kim to solidify domestic unity and achieve some measure of the global prestige he’s long coveted.

Crushing UN sanctions over that weapons build-up may be giving Mr Kim the hardest moment of his rule, observers say, but those weapons are no closer to being wrenched away by outside negotiators than they were when his father died.

Mr Kim has staged an unusually large number of weapons tests. And four of North Korea’s six nuclear test explosions and all of its three intercontinental ballistic missile tests have happened during his rule.

Updated: December 30, 2021, 8:29 AM