Over the weekend, the North Korean authorities withdrew some of the tension-raising measures put in place on the pretext of responding to joint ROK-U.S. ‘Key Resolve’ military exercises.
A source from the border city of Hoiryeong in North Hamkyung Province reported the news to Daily NK today, saying, “Last week on the 26th the top level combat readiness order was issued, so then for two days there were these lectures, meetings and rallies for soldiers and civilians. But since then there has been nothing special, no exercises or emergency summonses; everything has been quiet.”
“They had the PSM (People’s Safety Ministry; the North Korean police force), people’s unit heads and the NSA (National Security Agency) all out there in meetings telling people they needed to stay vigilant, but people responded indifferently,” the source recalled. “It was because the measures had been going on for months; nobody had any further interest in them.”
A second source from Hyesan added, “The soldiers here have returned to barracks following the end of a spell spent underground. They are now reviewing the year’s winter training, while soldiers are also being permitted to go outside their bases.”
Predictably, the release of domestic tensions has brought greater security to the markets. According to the Hyesan source, “The market here is operating normally, with rice hovering at around the 6800won level. Farmers are also out there preparing to get started on agriculture, without evacuation or tunnel exercises getting in the way.”
Recent tensions really began at the end of January, when a state of combat mobilization was declared that put the Worker and Peasant Red Guard and other reserve forces on high alert. That status was then briefly relaxed over the Chinese New Year holiday and Kim Jong Il’s birthday on February 16th, but was stepped up again immediately thereafter. Finally, the recent overflight of USAF strategic B-52 and B-2 bombers was used as the backdrop to a top-level combat readiness status declaration, at which point Kim Jong Eun convened his now-famous midnight meeting of military commanders.