North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un ordered his nation's military to increase its readiness and hold more military exercises as tensions in the region continue to spike.
Kim made the order while presiding over a meeting of his Central Military Commission on Monday. It was the first time he had been seen in public for more than a month. His absence from a Politburo meeting on Sunday raised further speculation regarding his whereabouts. Nevertheless, he now appears well and is planning massive military exercises.
North Korea is showing signs of holding a large military parade soon, when it may show off any new nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities.
The country's state-run media reported that Kim and his leaders discussed "constantly expanding and intensifying the operation and combat drills" and "more strictly perfecting the preparedness for war," according to The Associated Press.
Kim’s previous prolonged disappearances have provoked speculation about his health. Per NK News, his longest-ever break from public appearances was in 2014, when he was not seen for 40 days. Sunday's Politburo meeting was only the third one he had skipped during his entire time as the country's supreme leader.
Tensions with North Korea have risen in recent months as the U.S. shores up relationships with regional allies like South Korea and Japan. The U.S. has sought to deter China and North Korea from engaging in a conflict over South Korea or Taiwan.
China held a series of unprecedented military drills surrounding Taiwan last fall, leading to more lively exercises from the U.S. and its allies as well.
Kim fired North Korea's top military official in early January. Pak Jong Chon, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, was the second most powerful military official in the country, behind only Kim himself. He was replaced by one Ri Yong Gil during a series of meetings with the Commission and Kim's Central Committee.
The leadership shakeup comes as Kim is growing increasingly aggressive with ballistic missile tests, having launched dozens throughout last year.
North Korea has also condemned Japan's recently announced plan to bolster its military spending.
"Japan's foolish attempt to satiate its black-hearted greed – the building up of its military invasion capability with the pretext of a legitimate exercise of self-defense rights – cannot be justified and tolerated," a foreign ministry spokesman told state media in December.
Fox News' Bradford Betz and the Associated Press contributed to this report.