Changchun, China — According to inside sources, North Korea has decided to increase the size of the 10th District Command, which is stationed in Yangkang Province. Intended to expand the size of the force in the North Korea-China border region by 10,000, this is the first decision of its kind since the dispatching of the 9th Army Corps to North Hamkyung Province in 1995 to settle the 6th Army Corps coup d’etat conspiracy.
An inside Yangkang Province source told Daily NK on the 11th, “The National Defense Commission recently issued a decree increasing Yangkang Province District Command troop numbers by 10,000. 3,000 are due to be added before winter exercises, which are supposed to start in December, and 7,000 more are to be added as part of recruitment which will begin in March of next year.”
The source explained further, “Compared to North Hamkyung, North Pyongan and Jagang Provinces, the 10th District Command is relatively weak, so the decree is an attempt to compensate for this. It also implies converting the status of the unit from reserve to active.”
The 10th District Command currently consists of soldiers from the Reserve Forces Battalions in both the city of Hyesan and Daejin in Bocheon County, and the Reserve Forces Brigades in Gapsan and Woonheung.
Currently, however, the only active service units are an Anti-aircraft Missile Battalion and the No. 82 Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment, an Anti-Aircraft Gun Unit, the Communications Unit and the Artillery Repairs Section.
The source said, “The rumor doing the rounds is that they are increasing the size of the army unit in Yangkang Province in response to a missile base the Chinese have constructed at Antu near Mt. Baekdu and their posting of mechanized forces near Changbai,” hinting that the expansion of the Army Corps members is partly out of concern for China.
However, in response to a Chinese demand in August of last year, North Korea relocated both its 2nd 14.5mm Anti-Aircraft Gun Company (a.k.a Jedang Ridge Company) and an independent platoon known as the “Gotdongji Platoon” to Masan Ridge, which is approximately five kilometers from the Yalu River border. Before the move, the Jedang Ridge Squadron’s 12 guns were aimed directly at the Chinese city of Changbai in Jilin Province, directly across the border from Hyesan.
Furthermore, the Chinese missile base indicated by the source is actually located in the vicinity of Dunhua, which is in the interior of the Yanbian Autonomous Prefecture, far from the North Korea-China border, so it seems that the true reason behind the expansion may be different from the official explanation.
Regardless of the reason, the news of the fresh troops has not gone down well with the local people, according to the source. He explained, “With the news of 10,000 additional soldiers coming into Hyesan, many citizens have become concerned. It is already difficult for them to deal with the existing number of soldiers.”
Besides forces affiliated to the 10th District Command, the Raider Unit in Baekam, the Raider and Anti-Aircraft Missile Unit, the Huchang County Medium-Range Missile Unit, the 43rd Gapsan County Sniper Brigade, the Samjiyeon County Escort Bureau Unit, Hyesan City Bureau No. 8 (the Bureau in charge of supplying armaments and ammunition) and the Yangkang Province Border Patrol Brigade are all stationed in Yangkang Province, causing civilians to complain that the number of soldiers already exceeds the number of civilians.