Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
DPRK state media reported on February 21 (Sunday) that Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) guided military exercises by Korean People’s Army [KPA] large combined units (taeyonhap pudae) and then later on observed aviation drills by the KPA Air and Anti-Air Force. Attending the military exercises with him were General Pak Yong Sik (Minister of the People’s Armed Forces), General Ri Myong Su (Chief of the KPA General Staff), Lt. General Rim Kwang Il (Director of the KPA General Staff Operations Bureau and 1st Vice Chief of the KPA General Staff), Lt. General Jo Nam Jin (deputy director of the Organization Department of the KPA General Political Department), Pang Kwan Bok (Director of the KPA General Staff Military Drill Department and Vice Chief of the KPA General Staff), Lt. General Kim Myong Nam (commander of the 91st Metropolitan Defense Corps), Maj. General Kim To Un (political commissar of the 91st Metropolitan Defense Corps), Lt. General Ko Myong Su (commander of the 815th Mechanized Division) and Maj. General Ju Song Nam (political commissar of the 815th Mechanized Division).
The exercises involved elements of the Pyongyang Defense Command, the 425th Mechanized Division and the 815th Mechanized Division and were focused on defending Pyongyang “from an enemy attack by confirming the offensive and defensive operation capability through a drill for laying and overcoming obstacles between units.” The drills were observed by members of the KPA Workers’ Party of Korea Committee and faculty and instructors of the DPRK’s military academies.
Kim Jong Un “referred to the merits and demerits of the maneuvers and advanced important tasks that would serve as guidelines in further strengthening the KPA into ever-victorious revolutionary armed forces by intensifying training the way the anti-Japanese guerrillas did in Mt. Paektu. The maneuvers proved again that in order to cope with a fierce, severe and cruel war, it is useless to conduct any drill unrelated to wait and unfit for a war environment, a drill of formalism, stereotyped pattern and stylish manner. Commanding personnel and officers of the staff should put all military trainings into practical and actual drills and practical brain drills with the unshakeable Chuch’e-based stand and attitude towards war.”
He also “indicated one by one such principled matters arising in rounding off the combat readiness as enhancing the initiative, independence and creativity of commanding personnel and officers of the staff so that they can skillfully command operations and combats in keeping with the demand and conditions of modern warfare and the characters for carrying out their units’ combat duty, bringing the party political work close to war environment so as to arouse soldiers to victory in combats, enhancing the responsibility and role of training reviewers to ensure drills under battle conditions, giving the same strict review of drills as that of combats, and making preparations in advance to take up a strong defensive position in any lines by making an effective use of natural and geographical conditions of the country.”
Jong Un “expressed belief that all the men and officers of the KPA would perform great merits in defending the socialist country, deeply aware that they should ensure the security of the country and its people’s happiness with arms.”
Kim Jong Un also conducted a field inspection of combat aviation drills by KPA Air and Anti-Force units #1017, #447 and #458. Attending the drills with him were General Pak Yong Sik, General Ri Myong Su, Lt. General Rim Kwang Il, Lt. General Jo Nam Jin, General Choe Yong Ho (commander of the KPA Air and Anti-Air Force) and Col. General Son Chol Ju (political commissar of a KPA Air and Anti-Force large combined unit).
Jong Un “called without notice various types of fighters to a highway airfield” and was “very satisfied to see the pilots steering fighters at their own will and they are good at take-off and landing operations in an unfamiliar and unfavorable highway airfield.” He noted “with high appreciations that the drill for inspection was well done under the unexpected situations and the reliable pilots of our Party are ready to make sorties if they are given orders anytime. As I have stressed whenever I see a drill of fighter pilots, the defense of the country’s territorial air is not tied to the weather and time and a modern warfare is to be conducted in the worst condition. That is why the pilots should conduct flight drills under battle conditions with a high level of ideological consciousness and thus prepare themselves as competent combat aviators, all around pilots who are able to creditably discharge their air combat duty in any unfavorable circumstance.”
Kim Jong Un “repeatedly” expressed “his satisfaction over the successful flight drill” and “urged the fighter pilots to intensify the drill with a higher goal and make great success in rounding off the combat readiness of the air force with the Seventh Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea as an occasion.”
The PDC’s second appearance The first in this pair of field inspections by Kim Jong Un involved elements of the Pyongyang Defense Command [PDC] whose mission is the defense of Pyongyang and its immediate surrounding areas and to defend the DPRK core leadership against a coup or other violent challenge by elements of the KPA. The PDC forms one of the three rings of security around the capital city (the Guard Command forming the first ring, and the III Army Corps forming the outer ring). This was the second explicit appearance by elements of the PDC in state media reporting in 2016. The first appearance was in early January when KPA Large Combined Unit (taeyonhap pudae) #966 participated in an artillery firing contest on around January 4. DPRK state media also revealed that the aspects of the 2009-2010 KPA force restructuring are still in place within the DPRK’s armed forces, in which the 425th Mechanized Corps and the 815th Mechanized Corps (both officially identified as “Motorized Infantry Divisions”) were downgraded to division-level units.
Jong Un’s critique Kim Jong Un’s remarks after the combined arms training exercises were ambiguously caustic (“merits and demerits of the maneuvers”). It is unclear whether in his comments (“useless to conduct any drill unrelated to wait and unfit for a war environment, a drill of formalism, stereotyped pattern and stylish manner”) if he was referring to the drills he had just observed and commanded or earlier drills (“maneuvers proved once again”). Had he observed another military exercise, perhaps unreported in state media, that had not gone well? Or was he referring to training exercises which he has viewed on film or about which he received briefings? The last chunk of his remarks are intended to be interpreted as didactic (“indicated one by one”) and indicate a certain displeasure with how the KPA General Staff has managed its training exercises. His remarks as the combined arms exercise contrast with the praise he heaped upon the KPA Air Force. This could be an implicit way of explaining why General Ri Yong Gil was removed from office in early February 2016. At both of these recent field inspections, Jong Un’s reiterated his problems with ideological indoctrination and political work within the DPRK’s armed forces, which have recurred in his comments to KPA personnel since 2013. At the combined arms exercises Jong Un underscored political indoctrination needed improvement (“bringing the party political work close to war environment so as to arouse soldiers to victory in combats”) and at the combat aviation exercises identified the airmen as “reliable pilots of the Party.” Still he did a call back to this recurring issue (“why the pilots should conduct flight drills under battle conditions with a high level of ideological consciousness”).
Note that VMar Hwang Pyong So, Director of the KPA General Political Department, did not attend either of these military exercises,** however another KPA political boss Lt. General Jo Nam Jin did.
Ri Myong Su affirmed General Ri Myong Su’s appointment as Chief of the KPA General Staff was formally publicized in state media reporting about Jong Un’s inspection of the combined arms exercises. This fits with standard DPRK media practices of holding off a few weeks before publicizing a new appointment in the KPA’s high command in general, and Chief of the General Staff in particular. General Ri’s recent appointment and presence at the exercises is another indication that Kim Jong Un’s critique about military training and exercises refers to previous training drills that predated General Ri as head of the General Staff.
**let us not put out on APB on VMar Hwang’s political career yet. He may have been conducting other inspection work simultaneous to the ones conducted by Kim Jong Un