Kim Jong Un urges wartime readiness after Soleimani killing

Kim's orders likely aimed at keeping military leaders on their toes and to test their loyalty to the regime

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un urged his military to adopt a stance of “wartime readiness” on Jan. 4, following the US assassination of an Iranian general, Daily NK has learned.

The order came just a day after the US military assassinated Iranian general and commander of the Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, on Jan. 3. 

In orders given to the General Staff Department (GSD) and General Political Bureau of the KPA on Jan. 4, Kim Jong Un reportedly ordered that “We must resolutely obliterate the enemy’s irregular movements in the new year and urge wartime readiness in carrying out the historical calling of defending the leader and the Party center to the death,” according to a military source on Dec. 9.

The “enemy’s irregular movements” seems to refer to the operation undertaken by the US Joint Special Operations Command in the early hours of Jan. 3, when a drone-fired missile completely destroyed the vehicle carrying Soleimani as well as two escort vehicles. The phrase appears to refer to a risk of a similar targeted killing taking place against North Korea. 


On Jan. 4, Kim also instructed the GSD to “plan and execute a ‘three-pronged command training program’ and assume a full combat mobilization stance so that [North Korea] will be able to resolutely obliterate any and all schemes by the enemy.”

In March, the last month of the country’s winter military drills, the North Korean military customarily conducts exercises that place two opposing sides against each other. 

korean people's army
An image from the Korean People’s Army winter river-crossing drill in January 2018. / Image: Daily NK

While these exercises mobilize the entirety of the country’s military and paramilitary forces, including the regular standing army and Worker-Peasant Red Guards, military sources said that they pale in comparison to the “three-pronged command training program.”

The core of the “three-pronged command training program” is simulating a situation where North Korea’s military leadership has been wiped out. This requires the commands of each branch of the KPA, including the infantry, navy, and air force, to directly take control of lower-level military units. 

The exercise essentially aims to train field commanders to effectively execute operations without orders from higher-ups. 

The three-pronged command training program also includes guerrilla warfare drills focused on simulating scenarios where North Korean military leaders cooperate to mount attacks on the enemy’s military leadership after mounting global positioning system (GPS) spoofing attacks. 


Following Kim’s orders, the military is reportedly in a state of high tension. 

Military leaders all understand that Kim’s orders to protect him from enemy threats are essentially a way for him to test how loyal they are to the regime. 

“Everyone is on edge, because the exercises are a test of each branch’s operational and military staff capacity,” one source told Daily NK. 

“Military leaders are working their units hard because they don’t want to be seen as being unprepared for the outbreak of a real war,” he added.  

North Korea reported on Soleimani’s assassination in articles published in the Rodong Sinmun article on Dec. 6 and Dec. 8.

*Translated by Violet Kim

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