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Kim Jong Un makes surprise visit to North Korea air force unit

By Elizabeth Shim
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Kim Jong Un makes surprise visit to North Korea air force unit
Kim Jong Un makes surprise visit to North Korea air force unit of the air and anti-aircraft force of the Korean People’s Army, according to KCNA on Wednesday. Photo by KCNA

April 17 (UPI) -- Kim Jong Un publicly inspected a military drill for the first time in five months, and said only a strong army can secure peace, state media reported Wednesday.

The North Korean leader, who also bears the title of military commanding officer of the country, provided field guidance to Unit 1017 of the air and anti-aircraft force of the Korean People's Army, Pyongyang's state-controlled KCNA reported.

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Kim appeared at the airfield unannounced on Tuesday and ordered pilots to conduct takeoff and landing exercises, according to the report.

State media published photos of two MiG-29 fighter aircraft in addition to a Su-25 ground attack aircraft. KCNA claimed the pilots were "true fighters capable of independently and professionally performing air combat missions in any unfavorable condition."

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Kim reportedly warned soldiers on the dangers of being caught off-guard, according to KCNA.

"The air of peace that has arrived on the Korean Peninsula is not stable, nor have the aggressions of the hostile forces disappeared," Kim said. "Only a strong military can guarantee peace."

Senior defense analyst Shin Jong-woo of the Korea Defense Security Forum in Seoul said North Korea is sending a message to its citizenry.

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"Through the display of MiG-29 fighters, North Korea is telling its people to persist since the military is defending against external forces," Shin told South Korean paper Segye Ilbo.

North Korea's attention on the military comes at a time when Kim could be prioritizing a first summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin over a fourth meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Quoting diplomatic sources, Russian paper Izvestia reported Wednesday Kim is expected to meet with Putin next week.

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Putin could meet with Kim in Vladivostok, ahead of his attendance at the One Belt One Road forum in Beijing, according to the report.

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