Kim Jong Un orders improvements in air force weaponry

North Korean leader's orders focus on development of systems to load hydrogen bombs and biological weapons onto combat aircraft, sources say

After the breakdown in US-North Korean negotiations in Hanoi in February, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered the North Korean air force to enhance their combat capabilities, Daily NK has learned. 

“Every time Kim Jong Un visited air force bases, he would issue orders related to further developing the weapons capabilities of the air force,” a Daily NK source said on Friday. “The orders included directives aimed at ensuring combat readiness in the air force, but over 60% of the orders called for the scientific and strategic enhancement of air force weaponry.”  

On Apr. 16, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un paid a visit to the 1017th Unit at the Sunchon Air Base and oversaw combat aircraft drills. On Nov. 16, he observed a competition held by the Korean People’s Air and Anti-Air Force. During these on-the-spot visits, Kim specifically issued orders to develop technologies for loading weapons of mass destruction onto combat planes, Daily NK sources reported. 


“While the North Korean press suggested that Kim’s tour of the Sunchon Air Base in April was made in the spur of the moment, it was actually planned thoroughly in advance,” one of the sources pointed out.

Military scientists had actually prepared in advance to participate in Kim’s visit to the bases, multiple Daily NK sources said. 

“Working-level officials from various military laboratories, including the Korean People’s Army (KPA)’s air force lab, engineering lab, the electronic warfare, satellite and communications warfare labs were there, along with scientists from the 101st Research Laboratory and the Academy of National Defense Science,” one of the sources explained. “They had been stationed at the bases since January 2018 while researching ways to enhance the country’s weapons capabilities.”

In short, the military scientists had been stationed at the bases for a year to develop technologies used in placing biological weapons, hydrogen bombs and other weapons onto combat aircraft, according to Daily NK sources. 

North Korea’s Electronic Warfare Laboratory researches electromagnetic waves for the purpose of developing weapons that can avoid radar detection when launched. The country’s Communications Warfare Laboratory researches the circuits of coding programs that control the launch of rockets from combat planes. The 101st Research Laboratory is a nuclear physics and chemistry lab that has partnered with the country’s air force to search for ways to load hydrogen bombs and biochemical weapons onto combat aircraft.


Daily NK sources speculated that research on the development of battle-ready hydrogen bombs and biological weapons is in full force given that multiple scientists were on site during Kim’s tour of the bases.

North Korea is considered to have the world’s third largest stockpile of biological weapons, following only the US and Russia. In its “2019 Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments” report, the US State Department noted that the North Korean state was spearheading efforts to develop biological weapons.

Translated by Violet Kim

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Seulkee Jang
Seulkee Jang is one of Daily NK's full-time reporters and covers North Korean economic and diplomatic issues, including workers dispatched abroad. Jang has a M.A. in Sociology from University of North Korean Studies and a B.A. in Sociology from Yonsei University. She can be reached at skjang(at)