efe-epaSeoul

North Korea has reduced the size of an annual firing contest for its armored units this year and the regime's leader abstained from attending the competition, apparently due to the ongoing peace climate in the peninsula, the South Korean government said on Saturday.

The South Korean government confirmed that Kim Jong-un did not attend the annual competition, held within the first six months of the year, which the leader had attended in 2016 and 2017.

"The North Korean military held a mobilization and firing competition among its tank units in a border area last week. But the number of participating units and equipment decreased remarkably from last year," a government source told the Yonhap news agency.

The tank firing contest is held in frontline areas and functions as training for armored units, although it is carried out in a manner similar to a real battle, which has led to criticism from Seoul in the past.

Tanks are scored by their speed and how well they fire at moving and fixed targets, apart from their ability to avoid obstacles.

South Korean officials have said the downsizing of the competition is related to improved relations between the two countries after the inter-Korean summit held on Apr. 27 on the border.

The militaries of South Korea and the United States have also carried out their annual joint exercises more discreetly ahead of the upcoming historic meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump, to be held in Singapore on Jun. 12.