North Korea is engaging in unusually lengthy joint winter military exercises this year.
Officially, North Korea sets the winter training period from December 1st to the end of March the following year. However, within this period, civilian militia units composed of Worker and Peasant Red Guards and Local Reserve Forces train during the month of December but then concentrate on production activities for the purposes of accomplishing the New Year’s Statement thereafter.
This year, though, the National Defense Commission ordered additional training to begin in mid-January. This is exceptional not only for its higher intensity and duration, but also for the fact that it features the regular military.
A source within North Hamkyung Province explained in a call with The Daily NK on January 25th, “Every factory and enterprise has started civil defense training. This is a large scale citizen and military joint maneuver including the active military, Local Reserve Forces and Worker and Peasant Red Guard.”
Another source also confirmed, “This ‘joint maneuver of citizens and military’ was ordered by the National Defense Commission to begin January 16th. It is training for times of emergency; active-duty soldiers have ‘Command Strike Training’ while Local Reserve Forces and Worker and Peasant Red Guard are doing defensive position and search training.”
According to the sources, the maneuvers began with an emergency summons of citizens, Worker and Peasant Red Guard, Local Reserve Forces, Permanent Anti-Aircraft Machine Gun Corps, and active-duty soldiers at 6 A.M. on the 16th.
Active-duty soldiers had to carry heavy weaponry and equipment on long marches for the first day.
Militias such as Local Reserve Forces and Permanent Anti-Aircraft Machine Gun Corps checked equipment (emergency equipment in war time) inventories in preparation for defensive positional training. They must assemble by 10 A.M. every day to be assigned locations.
One source added, “Local Reserve Forces have taken their rations and spread out in Yuseon and Songhak for defensive positional training. They can’t return to their homes until the training is complete and so are setting up tents and billets outside.”
In the case of Worker and Peasant Red Guards, after the emergency summons they assembled at designated locations. First they did their equipment inventory, and then proceeded with training in searching for enemies over the next 3 hours.
Worker and Peasant Red Guards are the units from production facilities which focus on production at the same time as defending facilities. During the current exercise, “assembly in case of emergency” training is conducted as basic, but the main focus is on production.
Sources confirmed, “(In Hoiryeong) Worker and Peasant Red Guards train in some Red Guard training camps while working in the factories simultaneously. In the case of collective farm workers, they are participating in occasional emergency training while working to produce fertilizer.”
According to local sources, this year’s training period will continue until February 10th.