Kim Jong Un stresses nuclear capabilities during meeting

The Third Expanded Meeting of the Central Military Commission was held on Sunday, according to Rodong Shinmun

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently presided over an expanded meeting of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK). At the meeting, Kim made references to readying North Korea’s nuclear capabilities for war, Daily NK has learned.

Although Kim did not explicitly say so, his remarks on “launchers,” the reorganization of the military, as well as his emphasis on self-reliant defense capabilities, can all be seen as a roundabout reference to the country’s nuclear capabilities. 

NO EXPLICIT MENTION OF NUCLEAR CAPABILITIES AT MEETING

At the meeting, Kim stressed that rockets (missiles) and artillery capabilities should be strengthened, according to a high-ranking North Korean source speaking to Daily NK on Monday. These are the “decisions on organizational matters” alluded to in the North Korean media, which were also presumably the main issues of the meeting. 

“They say that Kim Jong Un issued a direct order calling for the reinforcement of military divisions where relevant to rocket and artillery capabilities,a source in North Korea told Daily NK. This essentially translates to an order to improve every aspect related to the strengthening of rocket and artillery capabilities, and can be seen as very relevant to ensuring nuclear weapons are battle-ready.”

”There was no explicit mention of nuclear weapons, but those present understood the order to mean that Kim Jong Un should be able to launch whatever he makes up his mind to launch, should he decide to do so,” continued the source. “Thus, whether it’s rockets or weapons of mass destruction, we must be prepared for every possibility.”

In this context, “rocket” is a catch-all term that refers to both short-range and long-range missiles. Since Kim Jong Un came into power, North Korea has invested in the operational capabilities of various missiles, such that a dedicated branch was formed, called the Strategic Rocket Forces (currently Strategic Forces Command). 

Kim Jong Un speaking to military leaders at the Third Expanded Meeting of the Central Military Commission. / Image: Rodong Shinmun

The Strategic Forces Command reportedly consists of three divisions: the Scud missile division, the Rodong missile division, and the Musudan missile division. The announcement that there is to be a new division in addition to these three can be read as a move to create a separate division for strategic weapons, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) like the Hwasong-15. 

A MOVE TOWARD MORE CONFRONTATION WITH SOUTH KOREA?

North Korea also recently conducted a series of tests at the Sohae Satellite Launch Site in Dongchang-ri, Cholsan County in North Pyongan Province. The tests involved a new solid-fuel engine for its ICBMs as well as a stability test. This has led to speculation over whether this is an indicator of North Korea’s determination to construct a system with the ability to stealthily launch both short- and long-range missiles at any hour of the day. 

“It’s been made clear that North Korean rockets must be shown as a force to be contended with,” said a source. “Apparently there was considerable emphasis on the sanctions against North Korea, and the fact that the military must take the lead in developing a self-reliant defense system.”

“The order to strengthen artillery capabilities seems to indicate that they’re more interested in a confrontation with South Korea, rather than dialogue,” continued the source. “Given the emphasis on being prepared for every possibility in a fight, it seems they will continue to conduct tests with the aim of improving the relevant technologies.”

On Sunday, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had presided over the Third Expanded Meeting of the Seventh WPK Central Military Commission and discussed issues pertaining to the strengthening of “self-reliant defense capabilities.” This meeting is presumed to have taken place on Saturday, given that top military officials assembled in Pyongyang on Friday morning.

*Translated by Violet Kim

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

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Lee Sang Yong is editor-in-chief of Daily NK and previously spent a number of years working as one of the publication’s foreign correspondents in China. He can be reached at dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.