Nearly 5 million people have volunteered to join or re-enlist in the North Korean military following President Donald Trump's warning to Kim Jong Un to denuclearize or face total destruction of the country, according to the state-controlled Korean Central News Agency.
At the United Nations last week, Trump said the regime was on a “suicide mission” and the U.S. was ready to “totally destroy” the rogue state if forced to defend itself or an ally.
Kim's continued weapons tests, including his nuclear test on Sept. 3, coupled with rhetorical exchanges between Pyongyang and Washington, have exacerbated tensions on the Korean peninsula.
What did the Korean media claim?
About 4.7 million citizens have "volunteered" to join the People's Korean Army, the Korean Central News Agency said Thursday.
The figure consisted of "students and workers," including more than a million women, according to Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea.
Volunteers sent messages saying they wanted to wipe out the U.S. with millions of nuclear bombs, the Korean Central News Agency reported. And the socialist leader vowed to “tame” Trump “with fire.”
North Korean citizens sought to join the army to defend “the leader and socialism," KCNA reported.
Younger citizens wrote threatening slogans in their petitions pledging to "take the lead in the final battle against the U.S." and “Let us blow up the U.S. empire of evils with five million nuclear bombs!" according to KCNA.
What do we know about the North Korean Army?
KCNA state media has made similar claims in the past amid moments of tension, but the accuracy of the reports is unclear.
Earlier this summer, the news agency claimed that 3.5 million citizens had signed up for the army after the United Nations imposed new sanctions on Pyongyang.
However, by most estimates, North Korea does have an unusually large number of armed forces personnel for its population of 25 million. The U.S. State Department has estimated that North Korea had 1.2 million armed forces personnel in 2014, making it the fourth-largest military in the world after China (2.37 million), India (1.41 million) and the United States (1.43 million).
The army is also believed to have 6 million or 7 million reservists ready to jump into action at a moment’s notice, Task & Purpose reported Thursday.
Jiro Ishimaru, a Japanese filmmaker who runs a network of citizen journalists in North Korea, claimed last month that due to the country's chronic food shortage much of the standing army was too weak to fight, the Guardian reported.
“[One contact] told me that there was talk of war with the U.S., but that many North Korean soldiers are in poor physical condition and in no fit state to fight,” Jiro Ishimaru told the Guardian in August.
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