LONDON: North Korea has been caught doctoring a photograph to double the number of hovercraft in a military exercise as part of its increasingly aggressive propaganda campaign.
The picture showed vessels with the same give-away shine on the front, moving through the water at an identical angle and throwing up spray that had been clumsily altered.
News agencies, which had picked up the image from North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), eventually killed the distribution of the photograph with Agence France Presse stating "excessive digital alteration" had taken place.
Eric Baradat, the AFP photo editor, said "various anomalies" were apparent even though the North Koreans were becoming more sophisticated in their fakery. "Usually a very simple examination with our software dismisses KCNA pictures but they tend to be better with Photoshop recently," he said.
North Korea's Photoshop efforts follow an Iranian state news agency releasing a doctored image of a radar-dodging jet flying above snow-covered mountains in February, after aviation experts questioned whether it could fly.
The picture was immediately suspected to be fake, with the lighting on the plane and its position similar to its appearance in pictures on the ground in Tehran at the unveiling earlier in the month.
KCNA has been at the forefront of Pyongyang's ferocious blitz of threats, the latest of which came earlier this week when the regime of Kim Jong-un warned that the conditions for nuclear war existed on the peninsula.
The Stalinist regime also declared that it was severing a military hotline with South Korea - the third link to be cut in as many weeks. The hotline is used to communicate as hundreds of workers travel back and forth at an industrial complex jointly established as a showcase of cooperation between the North and the South. Officials estimated that more than 900 South Korean workers were in the Kaesong plant at the time of the announcement. It was not clear that any restrictions on their movements had been imposed.
"Under the situation where a war may break out any moment, there is no need to keep north-south military communications which were laid between the militaries of both sides," KCNA said. "Not words but only arms will work on the US and the South Korean puppet forces."
North Korea's propaganda campaign is a response to UN sanctions punishing it for a nuclear test in mid-February and further antagonised by routine US-South Korean military exercises in the weeks that followed.
George Little, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said US forces were ready to respond to "any contingency", while Japan, which has a number of bases and is also the target of Pyongyang's threats, said its government was "on full alert".
The US and South Korean militaries signed a new pact last week, providing for a joint military response to even low-level provocation by the North.
Security experts believe the constant barrage of threats backed footage of military manoeuvres is designed to prove Mr Kim, who succeeded his late father last year, has taken a firm grip on power.
"They are upping the rhetorical ante in every possible way, but the international community is not reacting as it had hoped," said Cho Han-Bum, an analyst at the Korea Institute for National Unification, who believes a meeting of the leadership next week will further increase the exchanges.
The Daily Telegraph and Fairfax Media