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KOREA TIMES, YONHAP(South Korea), KCNA, (North Korea), AP, U.S. Military (USA)

Worldcrunch

SEOUL – Thousands of North Korean students and soldiers turned out for a rally in Pyongyang on Friday to support their leader’s call to arms, adding fuel to rising nuclear-charged tensions with South Korea and the United States, reports the AP.

The protesters chanted “Death to the U.S. imperialists,” and “Sweep away the U.S. aggressors.”

Earlier on Friday, North Korean state media reported that Kim Jong-un had ordered the country’s strategic rocket forces to be placed on standby to strike U.S. and South Korean targets, reports the South Korean Yonhap news agency.

The Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang said in a dispatch, "(Kim) convened an urgent operation meeting on the Korean People's Army's Strategic Rocket Force's performance of duty for firepower strike at the Supreme Command , ordering them to be on standby to fire so that they may strike any time the U.S. mainland, its military bases in the operational theaters in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea.”

According to Seoul-based Korea Times, Kim Jung-un’s move comes as retaliation for the operational drills conducted this week by two U.S. B-2 stealth bombers over the Korean Peninsula.

The U.S. military said in a statement that the drill, part of joint operations with South Korea, was to demonstrate its “capability to defend the Republic of Korea,” and its “ability to conduct long range precision strikes quickly and at will.”

The Korean Central News Agency said that Kim viewed the B-2 drills as an “ultimatum” that Washington would ignite a nuclear war at any cost: "Kim declared the revolutionary armed forces of (North Korea) would react to the U.S. nuclear blackmail with merciless nuclear attack, and war of aggression with an all-out war of justice (of its own)," said the agency.

Tensions have risen on the peninsula since North Korea conducted its third nuclear test last month, reports Yonhap, sparking a new round of UN-led sanctions.

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Map Johannes Barre/Patrick Mannion

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