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N. Korea approves new front-line army duties amid tensions

N. Korea approves new front-line army duties amid tensions

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un doubled-down on his nuclear arms buildup in face of “hostile forces” as he wrapped up a key military meeting in capital Pyongyang where officials approved unspecified new operational duties for front-line army units.

North Korean state media on Friday said members of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Military Commission decided to supplement an “important military action plan” to the operational duties of front-line army units and take further steps to strengthen the country’s nuclear war deterrent during a three-day meeting that ended Thursday.

North Korea hasn’t specified the new operational duties for front-line units, but analysts say the country could be planning to deploy battlefield nuclear weapons targeting rival South Korea along their tense border.

Kim during the meeting called for his entire army to “go all out” in carrying out the plans to bolster the nation’s military muscle and consolidate “powerful self-defense capabilities for overwhelming any hostile forces and thus reliably protect the dignity of the great country.”

The report by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency did not include any direct criticism toward Washington or Seoul amid a prolonged stalemate in nuclear negotiations.

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Jolting an old pattern of brinkmanship, North Korea has already set an annual record in ballistic testing through the first half of 2022, firing around 30 missiles in over 18 launch events, including its first tests involving intercontinental ballistic missiles in nearly five years.

Kim has punctuated his recent tests with repeated comments that North Korea would use its nuclear weapons proactively when threatened or provoked, which experts say portend an escalatory nuclear…

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