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SEOUL, March 18 — North Korea claims that about 800,000 of its citizens volunteered to join or re-enlist in the nation’s military to fight against the United States, North Korea’s state newspaper reported on Saturday.

About 800,000 students and workers, on Friday alone, across the country expressed a desire to enlist or reenlist in the military to counter the United States, the Rodong Sinmun newspaper reported.

“The soaring enthusiasm of young people to join the army is a demonstration of the unshakeable will of the younger generation to mercilessly wipe out the war maniacs making last-ditch efforts to eliminate our precious socialist country, and achieve the great cause of national reunification without fail and a clear manifestation of their ardent patriotism,” the North’s Rodong Sinmun said.

The North’s claim came after North Korea on Thursday launched its Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in response to ongoing US-South Korea military drills.

North Korea fired the ICBM into the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan on Thursday, hours before South Korea’s president flew to Tokyo for a summit that discussed ways to counter the nuclear-armed North.

The North’s ballistic missiles are banned under United Nations Security Council resolutions and the launch drew condemnation from governments in Seoul, Washington and Tokyo.

South Korean and American forces began 11 days of joint drills, dubbed “Freedom Shield 23”, on Monday, held on a scale not seen since 2017 to counter the North’s growing threats.

Kim accused the United States and South Korea of increasing tensions with the military drills. — Reuters