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North Korea scales back annual military exercises: report

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. (YouTube)

North Korea has scaled back its annual military exercises this year, in what U.S. officials believe is a reaction to growing pressure from international sanctions, according to a media report.

One reason the drills, which usually run from December through March, have been reduced are United Nations sanctions restricting sending oil and refined petroleum products to the reclusive nation, the Wall Street Journal reported.

It cited American officials familiar with intelligence reports and non-government experts.

“Where this will have an effect is on ground-force readiness. Military units have to train to maintain their proficiency,” said Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., a military analyst for 38 North, a website run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, according to the WSJ.

Military analysts said there is no major decrease in North Korea’s military capabilities and that there do not appear to be any signs that sanctions are limiting its drive to strengthen its nuclear and missile program, the WSJ reported.

North Korea has test-launched 23 missiles since February, including intercontinental ballistic missiles.

North Korea recently issued an announcement directed at “all Koreans at home and abroad,” calling for better relations with South Korea and “a breakthrough for independent reunification,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency said.

The State Department said the U.S. could support North Korea’s call for reunification of the Korean Peninsula, but denuclearizing the North is the first priority.

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© 2018 USA Today

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