North Korea has unveiled a new battle tank during training exercises, state media reported Thursday, amid ongoing joint military drills between South Korea and the United States.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un drove a new tank himself during the “training match” between tank units Wednesday in a bid to inspect tank troops’ actual combat capabilities, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Calling them “the most powerful tanks in the world,” Kim expressed satisfaction over their striking power and maneuverability, it said.

“He expressed great satisfaction over the fact that the new-type main battle tank successfully demonstrated its very excellent striking power and maneuverability, displaying its amazing militant performance for the first time in the tankmen’s match,” the KCNA said.

Photos carried by the KCNA showed Kim driving the tank himself and the battle tanks engaged in training exercises in an indication that the country may have deployed them for operations.

North Korea displayed the new tank during a military parade in October 2020 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party. Experts said the tank unveiled this week appears to be the upgraded version.

Noting the role of tankmen in modern warfare, Kim underscored the need to organize intensive exercises simulating an actual war and training matches so that “they can carry out any combat mission promptly and accurately in a contingency.”

Last week, state media said the North’s leader guided artillery firing drills involving front-line units capable of striking the “enemy’s capital.”

Kim’s inspection came as Seoul and Washington have been staging the annual Freedom Shield exercise to strengthen deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats. The 11-day drills are set to end later in the day.

This photo, carried by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency on March 14, 2024, shows the North's leader Kim Jong-un guiding "training matches" involving tank troops the previous day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

Pyongyang has long denounced joint military drills between Seoul and Washington as rehearsals for an invasion and used them as a pretext for provocations. The allies have said their military exercises are defensive in nature.

At a year-end party meeting, Kim defined inter-Korean ties as relations between “two states hostile to each other” and vowed preparations to occupy the South Korean territory in an event of war.

This photo, carried by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on March 14, 2024, shows the North holding a "training match" between tank units the previous day, guided by its leader Kim Jong-un. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

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