SEOUL, April 25 (UPI) -- North Korea has launched a nationwide campaign to make its 1.1 million-strong army stronger to cope with military threats from the United States, official Korean media said Thursday.
In a show of civilian support for the military, tens of thousands of students, workers and farmers joined a large-scale military parade staged in central Pyongyang to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the country's armed forces.
Pyongyang's state-run newspaper said all citizens in the country would join hands with army troops to make the People's Army stronger in order to ward off threats from the "U.S. warmongers" who have tried to seize a chance to provoke a nuclear war with North Korea.
Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the ruling Workers' Party, cited the Pentagon's recent nuclear posture review that described contingency plans for using nuclear arms against North Korea as a sign that the United States was ready to conduct nuclear attack.
"Our country is turning into the main target of U.S. imperialists' military plot and the fiercest battlefield for our military confrontations with the U.S. imperialists," it said.
The newspaper called for all-out national efforts to expand North Korea's military power.
"The people should support and assist the army, and the army and the people should defend the sovereignty of the nation," Rodong Sinmun said.
The country with a population of 22 million has an armed force of 1.1 million, the world's fifth largest.
It also asked for all North Koreans to uphold "military-first politics" created by Kim Jong Il who rules North Korea in the capacity of the top military official.
"Our citizens have to be unconditional adherent and stanch supporters of the army-first thought, a treasured sword for complete triumph in the struggles to accomplish the cause of self-reliance," Rodong Sinmun said.
Kim has led "a war minus gun reports against the imperialists to a victory with steel-strong will, matchless courage and rare strategy to save the fates of the country and the nation," it said.
Kim reviewed the military parade held at the Kimilsung Square crowded with government officials and citizens, the North's television footage showed. Taking part were members of "the worker-peasant red guard and the young red guard," as well as students of "revolutionary schools and military academies," the official Korean Central TV said.
In a statement at the ceremony, the North's People's Armed Forces Minister Kim Il Chol pledged "unconditional" loyalty to Kim Jong Il and vowed to defend the country from a U.S. scheme to stifle it with force.
"It is our army's tradition to respond to any strong action with stronger action, and control fire with fire," Kim was quoted as saying.
Analysts in Seoul said the North's campaign was a move to intensify control over the population that is suffering from food shortages.
"North Korea's mobilization of many civilians for the military function is largely aimed at stressing the military-first policy as well as demonstrating its military capabilities," said Paek Seung-ju, a defense analyst.