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Kim Jong Un inspects new missile system amid growing Russia military ties

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected a new tactical missile system, state media reported Wednesday. Last week, he oversaw the test-firing of new controllable shells for a 240mm multiple rocket launcher. Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected a new tactical missile system, state media reported Wednesday. Last week, he oversaw the test-firing of new controllable shells for a 240mm multiple rocket launcher. Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE

SEOUL, May 15 (UPI) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected a new tactical missile system and called for an "epochal change" in war preparations, state media reported Wednesday, as the authoritarian regime continues to ramp up production of weapons that may be intended for sale to Russia.

Kim "acquainted himself with the tactical missile weapon system to be newly equipped by the combined missile units of the Korean People's Army in charge of an important firing assignment on Tuesday," state-run Korean Central News Agency reported.

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The North's weapons factories have "fulfilled their munitions plans for the first half of the year and will carry out the plans for the production of tactical missile weapon system" by the end of the year, the KCNA report said.

No further details on the new system were provided.

The inspection came two days after state media reported that Kim visited munitions factories producing sniper rifles and vehicles for transporting multiple rocket launcher systems. Last week, he oversaw the test-firing of controllable shells for an updated version of the North's 240mm multiple rocket launcher system.

Speculation has mounted that North Korea is conducting tests and ramping up weapons production in anticipation of sales to Russia and other buyers. Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff called an artillery firing drill last month a potential "demonstration of the performance ... for export."

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Washington and its allies have long accused North Korea of sending weapons to Russia for its invasion of Ukraine in exchange for fuel, raw materials and technology assistance. In March, South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik said that the North had already sent 7,000 containers of munitions to Russia.

Pyongyang and Moscow deny the charges, but the use of North Korean missiles on the battlefield in Ukraine has been documented as far back as January.

Over the weekend, South Korea's top spy agency told local media it was investigating claims that North Korean 122mm artillery shells manufactured in the 1970s were turning up on the battlefield in Ukraine.

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