North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has reportedly ordered a strengthening of the “expertise” of the department screening strategic and tactical weapons.

The order comes as North Korea continues to focus on developing nuclear weapons.

According to a Daily NK source in the North Korean military on Wednesday, the “special order” in Kim’s name was handed down during a meeting of the party committee of the Korean People’s Army on Oct. 23.

The meeting credited the Ministry of Defense’s Weapons Bureau for its “excellent contributions” over the last decade during the screening process all weapons systems must undergo prior to deployment. This means that not only did the bureau properly test weapon capabilities during the screening process, but also committed no major detectable errors in deploying the weapons according to the circumstances of each unit.

Rather than rewarding those involved for their contributions, however, he ordered that their duties be bolstered. That is to say, he ordered that the “department that made the excellent contributions be enlarged and reorganized.”

This indicates Kim’s desire to quickly modernize and diversify weapons and launch systems to build North Korea’s self-defense capacity.

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Kim Jong Un at the leadership podium during the Party Foundation Day military parade in Pyongyang on Oct. 10, 2020. / Image: KCNA

North Korea has been advancing its weapon systems under Kim. In particular, the country recently tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLMB) and conducted last month four test launches of new missile systems, including a long-range cruise missile, a train-launched ballistic missile, a hypersonic missile and a surface-to-air missile.

The order also reflects a perceived need to push the modernization of the country’s arsenal to strengthen its “nuclear deterrent” as called for during the Eighth Party Congress at the start of the year.

Worsening living conditions due to the protracted closure of North Korea’s borders in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have had an impact, too. This means the order reflects the authorities’ intention to break through the country’s difficulties by strengthening national defense.

North Korea may also use the order as a propaganda point a decade in the future, much as it did at the recent Defense Development Exhibition when it pointed to the “re-founding of the military during Kim Jong Un’s first 10 years” as an accomplishment.

The Ministry of Defense’s Weapons Bureau responded to Kim’s order by jumping to work. It has decided to divide its general screening department for weapon testing into six sections specializing in individual weapon systems. It also plans to onboard many new technical specialists.

More specifically, the bureau plans to evaluate and select leading defense industry technicians and managers from research centers, universities and other workplaces by the end of November. It will then give the new hires three months of practical training in cooperation with related sectors.

Screening Department of the Weapons Bureau of the Ministry of Defense: This department carries out the vital final testing of weapon systems that have already undergone research (by R&D institutions such as the Academy of National Defense Science), prototyping, simulations, production and test launches.

In particular, weapons and equipment passed in tests by the Military Industries Department must pass a final vetting by the Screening Department of the Weapons Bureau before being deployed in the field.

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