Pictures showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un surrounded by a female battalion were released by state television KRT. It shows Jong-un at a secret location attending a multiple launch rocket system (MLRS).

"He organised this contest all of a sudden and guided it on the spot in order to estimate and confirm the combat capability of women gunners," the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a report according to Yonhap News Agency.

The supreme leader stated the importance of the war games as a training exercise to prepare for hostilities. "To this end, the training of artillery units should be conducted under the simulated conditions of an actual battle," the KCNA quoted Kim as saying.

"The training irrelevant to an actual war is not necessary no matter how frequently it is conducted, and soldiers would have to pay dearly in combat for such training," Kim was quoted as saying by KNCA.

Accompanying him on the military inspection were North Korea's top military commanders including Vice Marshal Hwang Pyong-so, director of the military's political bureau and Ri Myony-su, the chief of general staff.

North Korea has issued warnings it is "close to the brink of war" with its neighbour South Korea. Pak Yun Sik, the regime's foreign affairs representative said: "The situation on the Korean peninsula is close to the brink of war because of endless military exercises by American and South Korean forces targeting us.

"Now, Britain has decided to send its Typhoon fighter jets to take part in joint US-South Korean military drills, in the south of Korea, from 4 to 10 November.

"This is a hostile act, openly joining the US and South Korean forces in moves for a new war against us.

"Britain claims that this military exercise is not targeting us, but the US and South Korea openly say that these military exercises are aimed at launching a strike against our military facilities and our command structure."

Disturbing reports have emerged of female soldiers in North Korea being raped. Lee So-yeon, a former soldier and New Korea Women's Union representative, spoke at a conference in Seoul about human rights abuses, saying that "there is no concept of dignity for women," according to the Korea Herald.

"Out of 120 soldiers in my unit, there were only 20 men, but they were all high-ranking officers. I was in the 1st squad, but a couple of squad leaders in the 2nd squad raped every single one of the low-ranking female soldiers," Lee said.