Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
Kim Jong Il (Kim Cho’ng-il) conducted a field inspection of the command element of the KPA Navy Command (also known as the Korean People’s Navy). It was KJI’s third reported field inspection in 2011, and his second KPA Navy visit (the first was a visit to Najin Shipyard in April) this year. KJI visited the command’s museum, as well as education and training facilities before posing for commemorative photographs with selected officers. KCNA reported, in part, on some of his remarks during the inspection:
He repeatedly praised the command for establishing the revolutionary training style of thinking of combat circumstances and putting their ideas into practice among commanding and staff officers of the unit and helping them widen their tactical insight. He, at the same time, praised them for firmly defending the seas of the country with the death-defying will to resolutely protect the party, revolution and socialist country by force of arms.
As Korea is surrounded by seas on its three sides, the navy has very important role to play, he said, putting forth important tasks to serve as guidelines for bolstering up the armed force of the navy.
Soldiers should always be combat-ready though there is no gunfire and keep themselves fully ready to win without fail in a do-or-die battle with the enemy, he said, adding that good fighters in war time are heroes and patriots, but those who are good at trainings are heroes and patriots in peacetime.
Among those reported to have accompanied KJI were: KPA Chief of the General Staff Department (GSD) and co-vice-chairman of the Party Central Military Commission (CMC), Ri Yong Ho (Yi Yo’ng-ho); Senior Vice Director of the KPA General Political Department (GPD), NDC and CMC Member, Kim Jong Gak (Kim Cho’ng-kak); CMC Member, Kim Kyong Ok (Kim Kyo’ng-ok); CMC Member and director of the GSD Operations Bureau, Kim Myong Guk (Kim Myo’ng-kuk); CMC Member and director of the Military Security Command (MSC), Kim Won Hong (Kim Wo’n-hong); director of the NDC Standing Committee, Hyon Chol Hae (Hyo’n Ch’o’l-hae); CMC Member and commander of the KPA Navy, Jong Myong Do (Cho’ng Myo’ng-to); and, CMC co-vice-chairman and hereditary successor designate Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n).
KJI’s last inspection of the KPA Navy Command was reported by DPRK media on 2 May 2002. Chosun Ilbo reports KJI’s appearances at KPA Navy bases as harbingers of provocation:
The North Korean media last reported a visit by Kim to the Navy Command on May 2, 2002. Eight weeks later, on June 29 that year, a skirmish occurred in the West Sea when a North Korean patrol boats crossed the Northern Limit Line and attacked South Korean patrol boats.
This time, Kim was quoted as saying, “Officers and sailors of this command that has produced 103 heroes should carry on this proud tradition and perform feats by winning every battle in a future war to defend the fatherland.”
On Nov. 27, 2009, right after the North Korean Navy’s defeat in another skirmish near Daecheong Island on Nov. 10, Kim gave a similar address to the West Sea Fleet Command in Nampo. Four months later, on March 26 last year, the North torpedoed and sank the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan.
During a KCTV broadcast on Army Day in April 2010, a KPA service member reminisced about KJI’s visit to a KPA Navy unit in November 2009. The KPA member talked about KJI hobbling down a gangplank, conducting a detailed inspection. Then, according to the soldier, the NDC Chairman and KPA Supreme Commander remarked, “Comrades, do you know why I come to this unit often? It is because as supreme commander, I have such strong confidence in this unit. I urge you to reinforce your training in the future and firmly prepare all the sailors into vigorous one-a-match-for-100 all-round sailors and as the do-or-die unit of sea heroes.”
Part of KJI’s recent visits is a shoe leather campaign to ensure some support for his son, Kim Jong Un, on that day when the young comrade gets unfettered access to the telephone switchboard and personnel files. Until then, however, KJI is still dispensing with practical business, so it is likely this recent visit to the KPA Navy Command was related to preparations for a KPA drill which may occur near South P’yo’ngan Province. Kim Su-jeong and Moon Gwang-lip wrote in JoongAng Ilbo:
North Korea has been observed preparing for a large-scale joint drill of its Army, Navy and Air Force in the Yellow Sea that could be conducted this week, a high-ranking South Korean government source told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.
“In the middle of last week, North Korean naval vessels, fighter jets and military forces assembled in large numbers at its Navy base in Nampo, and Air Force base in Onchon, [both in] South Pyongan,” the source said.
“We judge that it will conduct a large-scale drill near the armistice anniversary on July 27.”
Some North Korea experts see the move as the other side of its typical two-pronged approach, while taking conciliatory gestures toward the South and the U.S.
The North sent its envoy for rare, inter-Korean denuclearization talks to an Asian security gathering in Bali last week, spurring hope that it is ready to return to the stalled six-party talks on its denuclearization in an earnest manner. The six-party talks involve the two Koreas, the U.S., Japan, China and Russia.
Meanwhile, the PLA Navy training ship Zheng He and the missile frigate Luoyang departed Dalian on 25 July and will stop in Russia and the DPRK. The Zheng He has previously traveled to ROK, Japan, Thailand and New Zealand. The Luoyang participated in joint drills with Australia in the Yellow Sea (West Sea) in September 2010.