In what is probably a “slightly” exaggerated figure, North Korea claimed on Thursday that some 4.7 million students and workers have volunteered to join or re-enlist in the North Korean army since Kim Jong Un called Donald Trump a “dotard” and vowed to retaliate against the US for President Donald Trump’s threats to “destroy” North Korea. If accurate, that figure would represent nearly 20% of the North’s population (the country is believed to be home to 25 million people, making it about half the size, population-wise as South Korea).
Furthermore, according to the Rodong Sinmun, North Korea’s biggest newspaper among the volunteers were 1.2 million women, which was cited by South Korean news agency Yonhap.
Of course, North Korea has made similar claims in the past when tensions with the US have intensified. Pyongyang usually claims that its young citizens voluntarily enlisted in the military in its propaganda campaigns aimed at bolstering national solidarity – even as recently as last month.
North Korea made a similar assertion last month when it condemned the UN Security Council for adopting US-led resolutions over Pyongyang’s launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles in July.
On Tuesday, the US imposed another round of meaningless new sanctions on North Korea’s banks, after President Donald Trump claimed an important victory by revealing that China had instructed its banks to halt business with North Korea. The president reiterated during a press conference with Spanish leader Mariano Rajoy that the US was “totally prepared” to use a military option against the North, which he said would be “totally devastating.” Earlier this week, National Security Advisor HR McMaster said the US had prepared “four or five different scenarios” for how the crisis with North Korea could be resolved, ominously adding that “some are uglier than others.”
In other news, South Korean officials said they expect more provocative acts by North Korea over the next month to coincide with the anniversary of the founding of the North Korean community party and China’s once-every-five-years Community Party Congress, according to Reuters.
North Korea has a widely observed penchant for marking holidays with demonstrations of its military strength. Reuters said National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong said he expected Pyongyang to act around Oct. 10 and 18, but gave no additional details, during a meeting with President Moon Jae-in on Thursday.
The South Korean security adviser also claimed in a report that a conflict between the North and the US could erupt because of an accidental incident, according to Park Wan-ju, a lawmaker and head spokesman of the ruling Democratic Party.
“The president said the United States speaks of military and diplomatic options, but South Korea can’t go through war again,” said Park.
Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been simmering since Trump was inaugurated, as the president has engaged in an escalating war of words with North Korea. Last week, North Korea’s foreign minister accused the US during a speech at the UN of having “declared war” on North Korea, citing Trump’s threats.