DPRK state media reported on 18 September (Wednesday) that members of the DPRK’s central leadership visited the recently constructed U’nha Scientists’ Street in Pyongyang. Kim Yong Nam (Supreme People’s Assembly President), Pak Pong Ju (DPRK Premier) and VMar Choe Ryong Hae (Director of the Korean People’s Army General Political Department) along with DPRK Vice Premiers and Korean Workers’ Party Department Deputy (vice) Directors “congratulated those who gratis had de luxe flats built under the loving care of supreme leader Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) to live in luxury and comfort” and “presented utensils to householders as souvenirs.” According to KCNA, the DPRK elites learn “about their children and house-keeping and hearing their impressions of the new flats, the officials told them about the devoted efforts made by Kim Jong Un to bring about the present happy event and the great and benevolent policy of attaching importance to science and technology enforced by the Workers’ Party of Korea” and “also told the scientists and technicians to contribute to the prosperity of the country with great successes in the effort to push back the frontiers of science and technology, always bearing deep in mind the great care to be handed down to posterity. “
A ceremony opening the U’nha Scientists’ Street, a residential area in Pyongyang for research scientists and technicians, was held on 11 September (Wednesday). Attending the ceremony were Pak Pong Ju (DPRK Premier), VMar Choe Ryong Hae (Director of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Political Department), along with “other senior officials of the party, state and army, officials concerned and service personnel of the Korean People’s Army and the Korean People’s Internal Security Forces, and officials and builders and those scientists and technicians who are to live in the new flats.” Mun Kyong Dok, Chief Secretary of the Pyongyang Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Committee, and Pak Pong Ju spoke at the ceremony.
According to KCNA in his speech, Pak “emphasized the need to regard it as main objective of construction to build dwelling houses and rest houses for personnel in the fields of science and education in the future as intended by Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) and implement the party’s idea of attaching importance to science and technology” and “called upon the officials and workers in charge of the management and the operation of those apartment houses, public buildings and welfare service facilities in the street to manage and operate all buildings and facilities in a responsible manner by embodying Kim Jong Il’s (Kim Cho’ng-il) patriotism to make sure that the party’s love for people reaches the scientists and technicians before anyone else.” Pak also “called upon those scientists and technicians to achieve more fresh successes in their scientific researches to repay with more latest scientific successes the love and trust of Kim Jong Un, who provided modern dwelling houses and highly civilized and happy living conditions to them.”
After the speeches, Pak Pong Ju cut a ceremonial red ribbon and ceremony participants toured the U’nha Scientists’ Street.
Yonhap noted that among the members of the DPRK central leadership attending the ceremony was Choe Chun Sik, President of the Second Academy of Natural Sciences. Choe toured the scientists’ residential area with Kim Jong Un the previous day, and had last been prominently seen attending various celebratory and commemorative events following the DPRK’s launch of the U’nha-3 in December 2012. At the opening ceremony, Choe was seen attired in a KPA dress uniform with the rank of Lt. General (sangjang) on the shoulder boards. Also attending the ceremony was KWP Secretary Pak To Chun, a key leading manager of the DPRK weapons industry and Choe Chun Sik’s nominal boss.
On 5 March DPRK state media released a documentary film which compiled film footage of Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) inspecting Korean People’s Army [KPA] units, observing training exercises and visiting construction projects utilizing KPA personnel from his accession in January 2012 to live fire exercises in 2013. Loosely translated as Unleashing a New Heyday of the Formidable Forces of Mt. Paektu, the 80 minute film consists mainly of footage that has previously appeared in short documentaries about KJU’s activities. Aside from a few new, brief scenes of KJU talking with note taking senior officials, the films includes footage of the expanded meeting of the Korean Workers’ Party Central Military Commission [CMC] meeting held late in the afternoon on 3 February 2013. The meeting was a key event preceding the DPRK’s third nuclear test on 12 February 2013. The CMC meeting ended with Kim Jong Un, assisted by Chief of the KPA General Staff Hyon Yong Chol, giving meeting participants handguns in presentation boxes.
The film also included footage of another expanded meeting of the Party Central Military Commission, held between February and March 2012. This would have been a key event preceding the 13 April 2012 launch of the U’nha-3 rocket, which crashed shortly after it was launched. Unlike the February 2013 CMC meeting, KWP civilian officials are attired in KPA dress uniforms. Based on the protocol from the February ’13 meeting, it is likely then-Chief of the KPA General Staff, VMar Ri Yong Ho, participated in the handgun presentation ceremony at the meeting’s conclusion, however VMar Ri is not shown in this film.
DPRK state media reported on 5 March (Tuesday) that a spokesman of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] Supreme Command said that it “will make the Korean Armistice Agreement totaly nullified, that the “Supreme Command of the KPA will completely declare invalid the AA, which has existed for form’s sake from March 11, the day when the war maneuvers will enter into a full-dress stage” and that “this land (the DPRK) is neither the Balkans nor Iraq nor Libya.” Based on images released in state media the spokesman for the KPA Supreme Command was Gen. Kim Yong Chol, chief of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, which is responsible for anti-ROK [South Korea] intelligence operations.
Parsing the KPA Supreme Command’s statement Glyn Ford told Russia’s RT: “There’s a difference between saying you no longer recognize an armistice and actually starting shooting again. They’re not quite the same thing.” Ford also said “I think he [Kim Jong-Un] is more likely to be turning away once we get through the next month or so towards looking at economic modernization rather than repeating the missile and the nuclear tests. I could be wrong, of course. It’s very difficult to read North Korea, but it seems to me that that’s where the thinking is.”
According to KCNA’s English-language version of the statement:
On Dec. 12 last year the DPRK legitimately and successfully launched a satellite for peaceful purposes, ensuring international transparency, going beyond practice, and choosing a comparatively mild situation for it.
Seizing the DPRK’s satellite launch as an occasion for stifling it from the outset, the U.S. and its allies deliberately negated the DPRK’s sovereignty over its satellite launch. They finally prodded the UN Security Council into adopting a “resolution on sanctions” before opting for high-handed hostile acts against the DPRK.
These hostile acts are still going on.
Under this situation the DPRK was compelled to take practical counteractions to defend the security and sovereignty of the country. On Feb. 12 it admirably and successfully conducted the third underground nuclear test for self-defence at the highest level as part of those counteractions.
However, the U.S. imperialists and their allied forces including south Korea are making more persistent and desperate efforts to slap new tougher “sanctions” against the DPRK, far from drawing a due lesson.
Not content with this, they kicked off again the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle joint military exercises to stifle the DPRK by force of arms by mobilizing huge armed forces of aggression. They will reportedly last for two months from March 1.
Unlike last year the current joint military exercises will be participated in by super-large nuclear-powered carrier task force carrying at least 100 nuclear warheads, B-52H strategic bombers and other means of the U.S. imperialist aggression forces for making ground, sea and air nuclear strikes and its allied forces including south Korea, U.K. and Australia.
From this point of view, the exercises cannot be construed otherwise than the most dangerous nuclear war maneuvers targeted against the DPRK and the most undisguised military provocation to be made by a group of all hues of hostile forces.
This serious situation clearly indicates that the actions of the U.S., south Korea and other hostile forces to infringe upon the sovereignty of the DPRK are now leading to a military offensive for aggression, going beyond the level of outrageous economic “sanctions.”
In view of the prevailing situation, the Supreme Command of the KPA which is responsible for the national defence and security of the country and the destiny of the nation sent a meaningful warning message to the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces through the KPA Panmunjom mission on February 23. It warned them that if they ignite a war of aggression in the end, from that moment their fate will be hung by a thread with every hour.
But, the joint military exercises have persisted and the U.S. and the south Korean puppet forces have become all the more undisguised in their base moves to kick up their “sanctions.”
Looking back on history, the Korean people have neither shot even a single arrow nor thrown a single stone at the land of the U.S.
The U.S. is, however, working with bloodshot eyes to swallow up the DPRK, not content with having incurred the pent-up grudge of the Korean people which can never be settled.
What matters is that the south Korean puppet forces steeped in worship and sycophancy toward the U.S. are dancing to its tune.
Of late Kim Kwan Jin, puppet minister of Defense, and Jong Sung Jo, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, inspected frontline army corps, fleet command and guided missile units where they blustered that a sort of military provocation is expected from the north and cried out for making “deadly strikes” and “preemptive strikes” at the “bases for provocations.”
As far as these guys are concerned, they are a group of traitors who pushed the inter-Korean relations to a collapse together with traitor Lee Myung Bak who knows nothing about politics and military affairs. They are military gangsters who go reckless, unaware of what their master U.S. has in mind, what is the intention of the neighbouring countries and what all fellow countrymen and nation desire.
The puppet authorities, too, are crying out for the dismantlement of nukes and halt to provocation as dictated by their master, without knowing what is precious wealth for the nation. They move like a robot and repeat anything like a parrot.
The sovereignty and dignity of the nation are violated and the supreme interests of the country are seriously threatened by the U.S., the sworn enemy of the Korean people, and maniacs of confrontation with fellow countrymen grouping worst traitors. The army and people of the DPRK can never remain a passive onlooker to this fact.
The spokesman for the KPA Supreme Command is authorized to declare the following important measures:
First, it will take the second and third strong practical counteractions in succession to cope with the high-handed war acts of the U.S. and all other hostile forces as it had already declared.
The army and people of the DPRK never make an empty talk.
It is the mettle of Military-First (So’ngun) Korea to do what it is determined to do.
It won victories in the two wars and has advanced along the road of victory despite manifold difficulties.
The army groups on the front, ground forces, the navy, air and anti-air units, strategic rocket units of the KPA, the Worker-Peasant Red Guards and the Young Red Guards have launched an all-out action according to the operational plan finally signed by the dear respected Supreme Commander Kim Jong Un.
Now that the U.S. imperialists seek to attack the DPRK even with nuclear weapons, it will counter them with diversified precision nuclear strike means of Korean style.
Those means are bound to be launched once their buttons are pressed, and the enemies’ strongholds be turned into a sea in flames.
This land is neither the Balkans nor Iraq and Libya.
The army and people of the DPRK have everything including lighter and smaller nukes unlike what they had in the past.
Second, the KPA Supreme Command will make the Korean Armistice Agreement totally nullified.
The war maneuvers being staged by the U.S. imperialists and the south Korean puppet forces are a vivid expression of their systematic violation of the AA.
Accordingly, the Supreme Command of the KPA will completely declare invalid the AA, which has existed for form’s sake from March 11, the day when the war maneuvers will enter into a full-dress stage.
The DPRK will make a strike of justice at any target anytime as it pleases without limit, not bound to the AA, and achieve the great cause of the country’s reunification, the cherished desire of the nation.
Third, the KPA Supreme Command will totally stop the activities of the Panmunjom mission of the KPA which was tentatively established and operated by it as a negotiating body for establishing a peace-keeping mechanism on the Korean Peninsula.
In this regard it will simultaneously make a decision to cut off the Panmunjom DPRK-U.S. military telephone.
Our choice has become clear now that the moves of all hostile forces to encroach upon the sovereignty and dignity of the DPRK are reaching a dangerous phase.
It is the unshakable stand of the army and people of the DPRK and the mode of counteraction of Mt. Paektu style to counter enemies coming in attack with a dagger with a sword, a rifle with an artillery piece and nukes with precision nuclear strike means of Korean style more powerful than them.
The U.S. imperialists and their allies should not forget even a moment that they are standing at the crossroads of their life and death.
A final victory is in store for the army and people of the DPRK who are all out to protect its sovereignty.
South Korean [ROK] media, citing an interview with an unnamed ROK government official, are circulating rumors that DPRK Minister of People’s Security, Gen. Ri Myong Su (Ri Myo’ng-su) has been removed from office and replaced by Col. Gen. Choe Pu Il, currently serving as Vice Chief of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Staff. Gen. Ri was appointed Minister in April 2011 and has held the office for nearly two years. In a 26 February report Yonhap News Agency quoted the unnamed official who said, “To my knowledge, North Korea recently appointed Choi Bu-il, deputy chief of staff at the North’s military, to the minister of people’s security” and also reported that “the source declined to give further details, including exactly when Cho was named, but the apparent replacement is believed to be linked to a ‘part of loyalty test by Kim Jong-un.’”
JoongAng Ilbo published a similar story on 27 February and reported that “Choe Pu-il, former vice chief of the general staff of the North Korean army, has been appointed to the minister of people’s security, a position similar to a national police commissioner in the South, a high-ranking South Korean official told reporters yesterday at a private meeting.” JoongAng Ilbo also reports that Gen. Ri Myong Su “hasn’t appeared in public since September 2012.” Yonhap also reported that Gen. Ri “”has not been seen in public for months, raising speculation that he might have been purged.”
Either ROK media or their mystery man in the ROK government, are simply wrong about Gen. Ri’s public appearances. Ri Myong Su’s last reported public appearance was on 4 January 2013 when he attended a meeting of People’s Security and Korean People’s Internal Security Forces [KPISF] personnel “to carry out the important tasks” itemized in Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s Day Address. Prior to that Gen. Ri visited Ku’msusan Memorial Palace of the Sun with KJU on New Year’s Day, attended a banquet given for personnel involved in the 12 December 2012 launch of the U’nha-3 rocket, visited Ku’msusan on 24 December 2012, attended an unveiling ceremony of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il statues in Hamhu’ng on 20 December 2012 , attended the first central party banquet for the U’nha-3 launch personnel on 21 December 2012 and attended a national memorial service commemorating one year since Kim Jong Il’s demise. Gen. Ri also attended a national meeting of people’s security officers and a KJU commemorative photo session in late November 2012 and attended Forestry Workers’ national meeting on or around 7 November 2012. Gen. Ri’s public appearances have been relatively spotty, as Luke Herman wrote in NK News about in October 2012, but he has “appeared in public” well after September 2012 despite current media reporting.
This does not mean Ri Myong Su’s position could not be in jeopardy. There have been the aforementioned gaps between his public appearances, which could be ascribed either to his political standing or to the Minister having to directly supervise People’s Security’s various missions directly from headquarters. A lot of the ceremonial aspects of the Minister’s position have been undertaken by the head of the People’s Security/KPSIF Political Bureau, Col. Gen. Ri Pyong Sam, who presided over a ceremony at which the MPS University was renamed after KJI and two awards ceremonies for KPISF personnel killed on duty. There have also been rumors in Pyongyang implicating members of Ri Myong Su’s family in malfeasance in their foreign trading corporations. If Ri was removed from office, it would indicate that Kim Jong Un continues to consolidate his power by making his own personnel appointments, in lieu of keeping Kim Jong Il’s old retainers. It should also be noted hat Gen. Ri has also held senior positions during the DPRK’s three nuclear test. In 2006 Ri was serving as Chief of the KPA General Staff Operations Bureau. In 2009, Ri was director of the DPRK National Defense Commission [NDC] Administration Department. In 2012, Ri was Minister of People’s Security, which, according to some researchers. controls some of the units responsible for major construction and engineering projects at the P’unggye-ri Nuclear Test Site.
South Korean official and media sources have also previously provided conflicting information about Ri’s alleged replacement, Choe Pu Il. Choe has served as Vice Chief of the KPA General Staff since 2009. However some ROK sources have identified Choe also concurrently serving as Chief of the KPA General Staff Operation Bureau, and other ROK sources have claimed that Choe commanding the IX Army Corps or serving as regional commander of KPA forces in what be termed it Northeast Military District. This does not preclude Choe from being appointed to People’s Security, and his career history reveals ample criteria for his potential appointment. And yet, previous information from ROK sources about Choe’s position within the DPRK ‘s national security community has been inconsistent and highly speculative.
Pyongyang watchers also may recall that back in November 2012, VMar Kim Jong Gak was quietly removed from serving as Minister of the People’s Armed Forces and replaced by Gen. Kim Kyok Sik. This led country watchers to speculate as to whether VMar Kim was part of an ongoing purge, or if he was dismissed because of allegations that one of his sons had attempted to defect via China. Although Gen. Kim Kyok Sik’s appointment as the country’s defense minister was later publicized, it hardly affected Kim Jong Gak’s political standing and he has made a number of public appearances, including at so-called #1 Events with Kim Jong Un.
There have been numerous occasions in the past in which a senior official is seen at an event close to The Center, or continues to make public appearances, even though they’ve already been marked for dismissal. Often these have involved the more opaque maneuverings within the Party Central Committee and DPRK Government. However the Ministry of People’s Security, and particularly the individual serving as Minister, operates (in very relative terms) transparently. Gen. Ri Myong Su’s three predecessors as Minister were all publicly removed from office and their replacement publicly announced. In July 2003 the Minister of People’s Security Paek Hak Rim was removed (due both to political reasons and old age) from office by an order of the Supreme People’s Assembly [SPA] Presidium.** His replacement, Choe Ryong Su, was immediately announced. Choe Ryong Su’s tenure was short-lived. Barely a year after his appointment Choe was replaced by Gen. Ju Sang Song, then-commander of the IV Army Corps. Gen. Ju had a lengthy tenure, serving as Minister for nearly seven years. In March 2011 Gen. Ju was publicly removed from office by an order of the NDC “due to his illness.” On 7 April 2011, Ju was replaced by Gen. Ri Myong Su through an order of the NDC (to which People’s Security is subordinate) and ratified by the 4th session of the 12th SPA held the same day.
**Until 2009 the Ministry of People’s Security was part of the DPRK Cabinet, and the Minister appointed by the SPA. After 2009, the MPS was directly subordinate to the National Defense Commission. Thus, Paek Hak Rim and Choe Ryong Su were removed from office by the SPA Presidium (standing committee). In 2011 Gen. Ju Sang Song was removed as Minister by the National Defense Commission, and Gen. Ri Myong Su appointed to replace him, however the dismissal and appointment were ratified at the 4th session of the 12th SPA.
Nuclear Test Personnel Visit Ku’msusan and Revolutionary Martyrs’ Cemetery After Arriving in Pyongyang21 Feb
DPRK state media reported on 21 February that personnel involved in the 12 February 2013 nuclear test visited the Ku’msusan Memorial Palace of the Sun and paid their respects at the Revolutionary Martyrs’ Cemetery on Mt. Taeso’ng in Pyongyang. According to KCNA “scientists, technicians, workers, soldier-builders and officials who took part in the successful third underground nuclear test visited” Ku’msusan where they paid their respects to the remains of the late DPRK founder and president, Kim Il Sung, and the late supreme leader Kim Jong Il. After visiting the remains of the two leaders they toured “the halls where the orders the Generalissimos received are on display and the halls which house cars, an electric car, a boat and train coaches used by them for field guidance and foreign tour till the last period of their lives.”
The nuclear test personnel also brought floral bouquets and visited the Revolutionary Martyrs’ Cemetery. DPRK state media reported that they placed floral bouquets beneath the bronze memorial bust of Kim Jong Suk, wife of Kim Il Sung and mother of Kim Jong Il and Kim Kyong Hui. After paying their respects to Kim Jong Suk, according to KCNA, “they also laid a wreath and bouquets on the wreath-laying stand of the cemetery and paid silent tribute to anti-Japanese revolutionary martyrs.”
On 21 February the scientists, technicians, construction workers, KPA service members and others who contributed to the country’s third experimental nuclear detonation received a congratulatory message sent on behalf of the Party Central Military Commission and the DPRK National Defense Commission [NDC] which “said that the recent nuclear test fully demonstrated the excellent performance of the nuclear deterrence of the DPRK that has been diversified, and the technology of manufacturing nuclear weapons of Military-First (So’ngun) Korea that has reached a cutting-edge level.” According to KCNA the joint CMC-NDC message also said:
The nuclear test personnel arrived in Pyongyang on 20 February (Wednesday). Pyongyangites lined the streets as the nuclear test personnel’s motor coaches (buses) motorcaded throughout Pyongyang before arriving at the nuclear test personnel’s accommodation at the Koryo Hotel. Kyodo World Service reported on 20 February on the nuclear testers’ arrival: “Korean Central Television footage showed citizens lined up on major streets to welcome visitors arriving in buses. A large banner displayed at the lobby of the Pyongyang Koryo Hotel, which they are staying, reads, ‘Successful third underground nuclear test!’ According to the Korean Central Broadcasting Station, which caters to domestic radio listeners, nuclear scientists and others visited bronze statues of former leader Kim Jong Il and his father and state founder Kim Il Sung on Mansu Hill in the heart of Pyongyang.” According to KCNA, after arriving at the Koryo the personnel were greeted by Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Secretary for Machine-Building Industry Pak To Chun, KWP Secretary and Director of Propaganda and Agitation [publicity and information] Kim Ki Nam and senior managers of the KWP Machine-Building Industry Department.
The underground nuclear test conducted by the DPRK in the wake of its successful launch of satellite Kwangmyo’ngsong 3-2 represented a great political and military victory as it made the international community confidently recognize the status of the DPRK as a strategic rocket and nuclear weapons state and brought about a fundamental change in the world political structure and the balance of forces.
People in the field of national defence science carried out the test, exercise of the independent right of the country, thus dealing sledge-hammer blows at the U.S. imperialists, Japanese reactionaries and the south Korean puppet forces who are working with bloodshot eyes to force the DPRK to “disarm itself” and to “overturn its social system”, the message added.
It highly appreciated the scientists, technicians, workers and officials in the field of national defence science and soldier-builders who have made great contributions to winning a great victory in the all-out confrontation with the U.S. imperialists and its allies, and safeguarding the supreme interests of the DPRK.
It is firm determination and will of the dear respected Kim Jong Un to finally conclude the confrontation with the U.S. imperialists by dint of arms of Songun [military-first] and build the strongest power which the whole world looks up and a people’s paradise on this land, the message stressed.
It expressed the conviction that the scientists, technicians, workers and officials in the field of national defence science and soldier-builders would win one victory after another, closely united around Supreme Commander Marshal Kim Jong Un.
DPRK state media reported on 20 February (Wednesday) that personnel involved in the country’s third nuclear test have been invited to Pyongyang, in a similar fashion to the personnel involved in the 12 December 2012 launch of the U’nha-3 rocket. According to KCNA the group will include “scientists, technicians, workers, soldier-builders and officials who fully demonstrated the tremendous might of the great Mt. Paektu (Paektusan) nation by successfully conducting the third underground nuclear test will come to Pyongyang under the care of the Workers’ Party of Korea.” Echoing recent DPRK rhetoric in public speeches and essays, KCNA described the test as “a historic result of the devoted efforts by the scientists, technicians, workers, soldier-builders and officials who have devotedly defended the party, revolution, country and its people on the forefront for an all-out action against the U.S.”
During their visit to Pyongyang the nuclear test personnel will “will spend significant days of Pyongyang visit, enjoying the greatest privileges and preferential treatment” and “spend joyful and delightful time at the People’s Open-air Ice Rink, Skate Park and other places.” They will also pay their respects at the Ku’msusan Memorial Palace of the Sun, Kim il Sung’s birthplace and childhood home in Mangyo’ngdae and other locales.
DPRK state media reported on 13 February (Wednesday) that an ice sculpture exhibition opened in Samjiyo’n, a DPRK resort town close to Mt. Paektu and the wooden house where the DPRK’s official chronicles claim that Kim Jong Il was born in February 1942. According to KCNA the exhibition incorporates a “a variety of lighting methods were applied to suit the characteristics of ice sculptures, adding to the aesthetic value of each piece.” On display “were thousands of ice sculptures created by inhabitants in Samjiyon County and members of the Ministry of People’s Security group under the 618 Construction Shock Brigade,” “sculptures depicting Jongil Peak imposingly standing in defense of the birthplace, Kimjongilia, big celebration lantern and vase which reflected deep reverence of the DPRK army and people for Kim Jong Il,” “sculptures depicting a green pine on Nam Hill and two pistols, the Marshal’s star on the Supreme Commander’s flag, satellite Kwangmyo’ngso’ng 3-2, Changjon Street, Pyongyang Folklore Park and Rungna Dolphinarium. They left deep impressions on the visitors” and there were ”some sculptures portrayed people who are full of enthusiasm to boost production in all fields and units of the national economy in hearty response to the New Year Address made by the dear respected Kim Jong Un.”
Yonhap News Agency,citing anonymous South Korean [ROK] government sources, reported on 12 February (Tuesday) that personnel and equipment may have been pulled out of the area close to the DPRK’s nuclear test site in P’unggye-ri, Kilchu County, North Hamgyo’ng Province. According to Yonhap ”no movement of manpower and equipment has been observed since Friday [8 February] at the country’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site.” An unnamed official said “When manpower and equipment are withdrawn, it can be an indication that a nuclear test is imminent. We’re watching the developments closely to know whether a nuclear test is imminent or it’s another deceptive tactic.” This follows another report in South Korean media that while the date of a nuclear test “still remains unclear, with the tension expected to enter the most critical phase this week, a senior official in Seoul said Monday [11 February]” and this week will be “the most critical point.”
Speculation among South Korean officials and experts about a forthcoming nuclear test occurred after an 8 February 2013 essay appeared in DPRK media outlet T’ongil Sinbo said that “the United States and hostile forces, based on their own hypothesis and arguments, jumped to the conclusion that the Republic would conduct a ‘third nuclear test,’ and they are prattling that if this were to become a reality, they should not only impose ‘high-intensity sanctions’ but even mount a ‘preemptive attack’” and “The United States and hostile forces’ reasoning behind “the nuclear threat of the North” is brigandish sophistry coercing unconditional submission and surrender, as it argues that the nuclear weapons possessed by the Republic constitute some kind of ‘threat,’ though they are for the purpose of defending the dignity and sovereignty of the nation and the peace and security of this land by boldly countering the United States’ threat of war of northward aggression and nuclear threat that are becoming more undisguised with each passing day. This does not work on the Republic, though its pawns may take it seriously.”
South Korean government officials described the T’ongil Sinbo essay as “a distraction tactic.” Other North Korea experts said that “that Pyongyang plans to check Washington and Beijing’s responses to its changed rhetoric in order to consider additional options” and quoted Professor Kim Yong-hyun of the North Korean Studies Department at Dongguk University who said “North Korea could show the international community its new uranium enrichment facility in order to boast its nuclear capabilities that have grown considerably.”
According to FNK, road closures and blockages were put in place on 5 February. Roads to and around P’unggye-ri were closed to vehicular and human traffic indefinitely and prevented DPRK citizens from traveling from North Hamgyo’ng Province to Paegam County, Ryanggang Province. Personnel from the Military Security Command wearing armbands “are guarding the roads, showing no sign of allowing passage no matter how one pleads one’s case.” FNK‘s source recalled security precautions prior to the October 2006 nuclear test saying the roads “were completely blocked from 7 to 20 October during the nuclear test conducted in October 2006. People who are stranded, unable to come and go, are worried about ‘how their families waiting at home would manage to live if movement of the populace is restricted for 15 days like the time of the last test’.” The FNK source also noted that “bribes that worked with soldiers and security officials enforcing control and restriction in the past proved to be ineffective this time, leaving one to only wait with nothing to be done.”