Risk of internal instability at the heart of ‘war preparedness directive’

After vowing to take “resolute
countermeasures” in response to international sanctions on March 4, Pyongyang
is said to have ordered its State Security Department, Ministry of People’s
Security, and other governing bodies to “make all necessary preparations for
war,” Daily NK has learned. 

“Recently, the state and people’s security
offices [SSD and MPS, respectively] received orders to be ready for war at any
time,” a source from Ryanggang Province said on Sunday. “An official from the
MPS who shared this information said it appears Kim Jong Un is determined to go
to war under any circumstances.”

Sources in North and South Hamgyong
Provinces reported the existence of the same mandate in those regions.

Staff from the MPS have commented on the
fact that the Marshal [Kim Jong Un] toured military sites in combat uniform, noting
that it appears to be an indication of the political climate having shifted,
and to emphasize that people should be in ‘combat mode’ when going about their
daily lives. This general atmosphere can be noticed at state and people’s
security offices, which have taken the unusual step of dispatching agents to
some sites for daily briefing purposes.

“MPS and reserve units in each region are
busy inspecting their weapons storage,” he said. “It’s also pretty clear that
police officers are under pressure because they’re now on rotation for 24-hour

According to the source, some agents are
even saying they would rather see war break out, if stronger sanctions mean the
North would have to go through another famine like it did in the 1990s.

“The state is also emphasizing that the
general public, and not just security agents, should maintain a ‘combat
lifestyle’,” he said, adding that people are not at all pleased and are
commenting that, “One can only fight on a full stomach,” while questioning what
the state will do if economic sanctions indeed cause a food shortage.

Analyses on these latest developments
suggest that although Pyongyang has been ordering agencies to prepare for war
and emphasizing that people should fight against sanctions, this response is
due to concern that external pressure from the international community will
cause internal instability.

“Ordering agencies to gear up for war is a
hint that the state is trying to keep a tight lid on even the smallest signs of
discontent within the public,” the source explained. “It likely sought to
declare a quasi-state of war to counter possible disturbances, but that would
necessitate recalling all the storm-troopers involved in the ‘70-day battle’
for the Party Congress from their work assignments, so this is probably the
best it could come up with.”

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