A Daily NK military source has reported that the day after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un apologized for the shooting of a South Korean fisheries official on the West Sea, he ordered the Korean People’s Army to “unwaveringly complete preparations for battle.” According to the source, Kim also ordered the military to provide regular status reports on the situation in the West Sea and to “rigorously deal with any violations of [North Korea’s] territorial waters.”

“The Supreme Leader [Kim Jong Un] ordered the General Staff Department to strengthen their [alert] posture the day before yesterday [Sept. 26],” the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Daily NK yesterday. “He told them that the Korean People’s Army shouldn’t forget that they are facing the [prospects] of war whether or not [North Korea] is engaged in dialogue with its enemies or not, and that they must resolutely defend the motherland’s territory on the air, sea and land.”

North Korea’s United Front Department, in a letter to South Korea’s government last Friday, had indicated that the country would strengthen its monitoring activities at sea to prevent a repeat of the shooting incident and that an order had been handed down to “establish a system to record all aspects of its [border] enforcement at sea” to prevent any “trivial mistake” from becoming a “major misunderstanding” in the future.

While the letter claimed that North Korea would strengthen its “alert posture” to prevent a replay of the shooting incident, Kim’s internal order, as reported by the source, seems to place more emphasis on having the military increase its “vigilance” and strengthen its battle readiness than on considering measures to prevent another incident.

Following Kim’s order, North Korea’s General Staff Department reportedly handed down a Supreme Command directive instructing the country’s naval forces to “ensure all waters [near] the boundary are impenetrable and to mercilessly deal with all those who intrude into [North Korea’s] territorial waters.”

In fact, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) published a report on Sunday that stated “…we can never overlook any intrusion into our territorial waters and we seriously warn the south side against it.” The timing of the media outlet’s report suggests it is connected with Kim’s order to the military to strengthen its level of vigilance.

A North Korean vessel on patrol near Daeyongpyongdo in June 2020. / Image: Yonhap

The KCNA article also mentioned that “We [North Korea] are about to organize a search operation in the southwestern waters and the western seashore. We even consider the procedures and ways of handing over any tide-brought corpse [sic] to the south side conventionally in case we find it during the operation.” The order handed down recently by the General Staff Department, however, makes no mention of trying to find and return the victim’s corpse.

“The only order [the authorities] have handed down to units overseeing regular patrols in the West Sea is to manage the operational situation to prevent something like the West Sea Battle [Yongpyong Sea Battle],” the source said, adding, “There was no specific mention in the order about dealing with [finding and returning] the corpse.”

Daily NK reported last Friday that the country’s Naval Command sent a message of appreciation to the head of the unit that oversees the high-speed boat that fired on the South Korean fisheries official, along with the captain of the vessel. The report also suggested that the unit’s leaders would receive an official commendation.

“[On Sept. 26, the same day Kim sent the order to the General Staff Department], officials from the Commendations Department in the Cadre Department of the Naval Command visited the unit and presented them with the commendation,” the source confirmed. “The assessment within the military is that the unit admirably carried out its patrol duties to prevent COVID-19 from entering the country.”

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Seulkee Jang is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.