Kim Jong Un Seen In New Military Drills as North Korea Announces 'Anti-Viral' Injection

North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un alongside was seen alongside mask-wearing troops in newly-released photos of his country's most recent strike drill as the country seeks to both show off its firepower and fight against the spread of the new coronavirus.

The official Korean Central News Agency published pictures Monday showing Kim equipped with binoculars but bare-faced as he observed what was described as "another firepower strike drill of long-range artillery sub-units of the Korean People's Army." North Korea's armed forces have conducted two previous tests in the past nine days, the most recent of which also involved what rival South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff called the firing of short-range projectiles off the country's east coast.

"The purpose of the firepower strike drill was to inspect the sudden military counterattack capability of the long-range artillery units on the front," the Korean Central News Agency wrote.

"As an order to start the fire was given, the brave artillerymen on the front who have further sharply whetted the bayonet for the revolution with the high spirit of annihilating the enemy amid the flames of the training revolution personally kindled by the Supreme Leader and the wind of hard training for strengthening combat power, opened fire all at once," the outlet continued.

"The artillerymen on the front hit the target with excellent marksmanship in the presence of the Supreme Leader, fully demonstrating their combat power as a-match-for-a-hundred artillerymen," the article added, noting how Kim "great satisfaction" and "highly appreciated the perfect combat readiness" of the frontline troops training "under the simulated conditions of an actual war."

north, korea, rocket, launch, drill, kim
North Korea launches a multiple launch rocket system during artillery strike drills supervised by supreme leader Kim Jong Un at an undisclosed location, March 9. The Korean People's Army has conducted three drills in a span of nine days, two of which reportedly involved the firing of short-range ballistic missiles. Korean Central News Agency

Pyongyang technically remains at war with Seoul and Washington since their three-year 1950s conflict that ravaged the Korean Peninsula shortly after being split along opposing Cold War ideological lines. President Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in have met with Kim on several occasions in hopes of striking a deal that would see Kim give up his nuclear weapons in exchange for peace, security and sanctions relief but the process has halted, especially since the young ruler's New Year's deadline for a deal passed.

Last week, South Korea declared a new war, one entirely separate from the decades-long inter-Korean conflict. The country has become among the worst-hit by the new coronavirus that originated late last year in nearby China and has infected an estimated 130,000 worldwide with the disease known as COVID-10. Around 4,000 deaths have been recorded across the globe as of Monday.

While the vast majority of confirmed cases continue to be in China with over 80,000 there, South Korea recorded 7,478, falling behind Italy, which surged to 9,172 on Monday. COVID-19 cases have emerged among the ranks of both South Korea and U.S troops.

North Korea, on the other hand, has not recorded any confirmed cases and ruling Korean Workers' Party Central Committee organ Rodong Sinmun reported Monday that, "The infectious disease did not flow into our country yet." Citing anonymous sources said to be within North Korea, South Korea-based news site Daily NK reported Monday that at least 180 North Korean troops had died in January and February and that about 3,700 soldiers are currently under quarantine.

north, korea, health, test, silk, mill
A North Korean health worker checks examines a worker at the Kim Jong Suk Silk Mill in Pyongyang as part of prevention measures against the COVID-19 coronavirus infection, March 8. Korean Central News Agency

North Korea was among the first nations to implement strict measures to regulate human and capital movement across borders. The country has continued to regularly advertise its anti-epidemic efforts, including the reported development of "a broad-spectrum anti-viral injection which is highly effective in treatment of various diseases" by the Bioengineering Branch of the State Academy of Sciences.

No known COVID-19 vaccine exists, but countries have raced to develop one in hopes of stemming the rapid spread of the disease, which has reached more than 100 countries. In the absence of a solution, governments around the world have continued to take precautionary measures, including the use of quarantine, which was apparently being practiced in North Korea as well.

"Amid an anti-virus campaign for preventing COVID-19 in the DPRK, the beautiful trait of helping and leading each other forward has been fully displayed among its people," the Korean Central News Agency reported Monday, reporting on acts of kindness and charity among the population, especially toward "those persons in quarantine." The number of North Koreans currently in quarantine was not provided.

While the coronavirus was enough to prompt the U.S. and South Korea to postpone their upcoming planned joint exercise, North Korea has only upped the tempo of its military maneuvers as of late. The country is restricted from conducting even short-range missile tests by a United Nations Security Council resolution, but Pyongyang does not recognize this limitation.

north, korea, kim, jong, un, strike, drills
North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un oversees a "firepower strike drill of long-range artillery sub-units of the Korean People's Army" alongside an officer at an undisclosed location, March 9. Troops have appeared in state-run media wearing face masks while Kim himself has joined most other world leaders in eschewing such measures themselves. Korean Central News Agency

After Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany and the United Kingdom issued a joint statement Thursday condemning last week's previous North Korean drill, the country hit back in a statement.

"The routine drills of our army are just the same as those conducted by any country of the world," a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson said in a statement published Saturday. "However, only our military drills are becoming the subject of weird countries to be denounced every time. In the end, it is nothing more than a logic that we should give up our right to self-defense."

"The illogical thinking and sophism of these countries are just gradually bearing a close resemblance to the U.S. which is hostile to us," the spokesperson later added. "The reckless behavior of these countries instigated by the U.S. will become a fuse that will trigger our yet another momentous reaction."

Kim has yet to reverse his self-imposed moratorium on nuclear tests and longer-range launches, which North Korea has not conducted since September 2017 and November of that same, respectively. Kim warned on New Year's, however, that he no longer felt bound by his word due to a lack in peace process progress and vowed to debut a "new strategic weapons" sometime "in the near future."

A graphic provided by Statista shows the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus disease by country as of March 9, as reported by Johns Hopkins University. The disease has infected 113,584 people and killed about 4,000 in more than 100 countries around the world. Statista