DPRK state media reported that Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) convened and attended a meeting of national security officials concerning “the grave situation prevailing in the DPRK.” KJU’s last reported public appearance was his visit to the construction of Taeso’ng General Hospital. Attending the meeting were Gen. Choe Ryong Hae (Director of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Political Department, Gen. Hyon Yong Chol (Chief of the KPA General Staff), Gen. Kim Won Hong (Minister of State Security) Pak To Chun (Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Secretary), Kim Yong Il (KWP Secretary), Hong Sung Mu (KWP Central Committee Deputy [vice] Director of the Machine-Building Industry Department) and Kim Kye Gwan, 1st Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs). During a meeting after Kim Jong Un was briefed about “the new situation and circumstances prevailing on the Korean Peninsula and in its vicinity” he “expressed the firm resolution to take substantial and high-profile important state measures in view of the prevailing situation as the stand had already been clarified by the National Defence Commission and the Foreign Ministry of the DPRK through their statements that powerful physical countermeasures would be taken to defend the dignity of the nation and the sovereignty of the country. He advanced specific tasks to the officials concerned.”
The report given during the meeting said that recent reactions to it April 2012 and December 2012 launches of the U’nha-3 rocket “has thrown a grave obstacle to the efforts to be focused by the DPRK on economic construction so that the people may not tighten their belts any longer on the basis of the war deterrence for self-defence provided by leader Kim Jong Il all his life.” This essentially announces a moratorium on whatever budding economic policy changes (i.e. reforms) were in the works or were being implemented (outside the special economic trade zones). Implicitly referring to China, the report also said that “different countries concerned made efforts to fairly solve the problem and prevent the deterioration of the situation. But, it became clear that there was limit to their ability, as they admitted. This fact proved once again that the DPRK should defend its sovereignty by itself.”
KCNA provided a gist of the report delivered to Kim Jong Un during the meeting:
The successful launch of satellite Kwangmyongsong 3-2 was an exercise of a legitimate right of a sovereign state and it was recognized by even leading special organs of the U.S. However, a grave situation was created on the Korean Peninsula and in its vicinity due to the unprecedented anti-DPRK moves of the hostile forces which arbitrarily and provocatively fabricated the “resolution” of the UN Security Council on tightening sanctions against the DPRK.
Since April last year the DPRK has made every possible effort to prove the peaceful nature of the satellite launch; it ensured transparency, going beyond international practice, and chose the time when the situation was relatively peaceful for satellite launch, etc.
However, the hostile forces deliberately denied the DPRK’s right to satellite launch in a bid to use it as a pretext for stifling it.
The U.S. and its allies took this high-handed hostile action in wanton violation of the sovereign state’s independent right to develop space publicly recognized by international law. This indicates that the U.S. has reached its height in its anti-DPRK strategy to stand in confrontation with it to the last out of inveterate repugnancy and enmity towards the ideology and social system chosen by the people in the DPRK.
This has thrown a grave obstacle to the efforts to be focused by the DPRK on economic construction so that the people may not tighten their belts any longer on the basis of the war deterrence for self-defence provided by leader Kim Jong Il all his life.
Different countries concerned made efforts to fairly solve the problem and prevent the deterioration of the situation. But, it became clear that there was limit to their ability, as they admitted. This fact proved once again that the DPRK should defend its sovereignty by itself.
It also became clear that there can be no denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula before the world has been denuclearized.
This was one of the first occasions, if not the first, of Kim Jong Un (or even his father) publicizing a small, senior-level meeting of DPRK policymakers. This was a meeting with Kremlin characteristics. Given the passage of the UNSC resolution and the DPRK’s subsequent reaction in the form of National Defense Commission and Ministry of Foreign Affairs statements, this primarily represents another phase of Kim Jong Un’s public behavior as DPRK supreme leader in the same fashion as his giving public speeches and appearing with his wife in public. Due to the anomalous nature of the meeting, it might be read as the continuation of a sequence of media events, such as the NDC and MFA statements, to demonstrate the severity with which Pyongyang is reacting to the 22 January 2013 passage of UNSC Resolution #2087 (2013). This may have been another opportunity for Pyongyang image makers to emphasize KJU’s open-natured method of governance, while providing yet another contrast to how his father, Kim Jong Il*, exercised leadership. It places KJU in particular, and the DPRK central leadership in general, in line with other foreign leadership by publicizing a meeting with key members of the country’s national security community to tackle a major policy issue or under exigent circumstances.. It also heightens perceptions of tension or crisis in K0rea and the northeast Asian neighborhood. It is possible that this was a public meeting, the to occur after another unpublicized gathering of the country’s other political and national security principals.
If the DPRK leadership has plans to conduct an experimental nuclear detonation, then this meeting may have been an aspect of the DPRK making its “political decision” to conduct a nuclear test. The officials attending the meeting may constitute the policy working group behind the DPRK’s third nuclear test. Prior to the 2006 and 2009, Kim Jong Il convened small senior-level working groups to manage the technical, logistical and external (diplomatic) elements of the the test. In 2006 and 2009 the nuclear test working groups consisted of Jon Pyong Ho (R &D, production), VMar Kim Yong Chun (logistics and technical personnel), Kang Sok Ju (external relations), among others.
With regard to Kim Jong Un’s meeting, if this is his nuclear test working group, we find: Pak To Chun (Jon Pyong Ho’s replacement) supervising the actual test through the Second Economy Commission’s 5th Bureau and the Second National Academy of Science’s Nuclear Bureau (among other SANS departments and offices); Gen. Choe Ryong Hae managing logistical and internal publicity (including education and indoctrination of KPA officers and service members); Gen. Hyon Yong Chol supervising personnel involved from the KPA General Staff’s Nuclear-Chemical and Ordnance Bureaus; Gen. Kim Won Hong, handling logistical and operations security; Kim Yong Il handling communications and relations with fraternal political parties and taking the leading role in managing relations with the PRC (through KWP-CPC channels); Kim Kye Gwan handling external relations with the United Nations and foreign countries (including the United States); and, Hong Sung Mu, as deputy director of the Machine-Building Industry (military industry) Department having responsibility for general administration and serving as the key interface between the supreme leadership (from KJU’s office) and all other relevant institutions. Hong is the official who works directly under KJU in the central party and will serve as the primary interface that manages tying these seemingly disparate entities into the knot of an experimental detonation. One might compares this meeting with the one KJU convened ahead of the 12 December 2012 U’nha 3 launch.
While this was a momentous meeting, it was not one which involved all the key players (at least based on state media reporting). For those staying up on where KJU’s interlocutors hang their institutional hats; the meeting was attended by four KWP Political Bureau Members (Choe Ryong Hae, Hyon Yong Chol*, Kim Won Hong, Pak To Chun), one KWP Political Bureau alternate (Kim Yong Il), two KWP Secretaries, or members of the Secretariat (Pak To Chun and Kim Yong Il), a senior Cabinet official (Kim Kye Gwan) and a close aide and KWP Central Committee Department Director (Hong Sung Mu). Five of the meeting’s attendees are members of the Party Central Committee (KWP Central Committee) and two of the meeting’s attendees are alternate (candidate) members of the Party Central Committee.
*During 2010 and 2011 KJI conducted similar meetings in a public fashion. In lieu of gathering officials at the KWP Central Committee #1 Office Building (as KJU has done), he held his meetings under the cover of on-the-spot guidance visits or field inspections. Pyongyang watchers used to me ask why KJI went to the central zoo so often or would appear at a farm with most of the country’s senior officials. Other than the natural human instinct to want fresh air, KJI was holding policy meetings under the cover of a zoo trip.
*Hyon Yong Chol has never been formally been announced as a member of the Political Bureau, but tends to be place alongside other PB members at official functios.