Tense atmosphere in border regions around leader’s birthday

Sources in North Pyongan Province reported a tense atmosphere on January 8, the birthday of Kim Jong Un. Although the date has yet to be officially designated a holiday, an increased troop presence was noted in certain areas on the day.
“Nothing particularly special is happening today to indicate it’s a holiday, besides snacks being distributed to children [by the government]. But special security procedures have been put in place starting with the industrial districts, and border security has been strengthened in response to an alleged intrusion by a group of foreign spies across the Chinese border near Sinuiju, which began at the end of 2017,” a source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK on January 8. 
“With international sanctions, the trade blockade, and continued defections of whole families, the authorities have gone into a state of emergency in the North Pyongan region. It started on January 6 and will last about a week,” an additional source in North Pyongan Province added.
The authorities are likely using the state of emergency to try and suppress rising public discontent with the government before it grows into a wider issue. It remains possible that the alleged spy story was fabricated and leaked intentionally by the authorities to justify the increased security, knowing that rumors spread quickly in North Korea. While the day has yet to be designated a national holiday, the regime may believe that politically-motivated incidents could break out during the period surrounding Kim Jong Un’s birthday, considering that the population is increasingly feeling the effects of international sanctions
Notably, an article in the January 8 edition of the Rodong Sinmun stated, “If we do not maintain our foreign policy ideology, we risk overthrow and regime change,” appealing to the people to defend the current system.
The article, titled “Position on the unwavering Juche ideology in foreign policy,” went on to say that “the international imperialist reactionary powers led by the ringleader United States are openly threatening invasion of sovereign nations and meddling in their domestic affairs.”
Similar sentiments were expressed in the Rodong Sinmun following the November visit from Song Tao, special envoy from China and head of the International Liaison Department for the Chinese Communist Party. “We will never place on the negotiating table problems related to the interests and safety of the people,” one article stated following the meeting.
The January 8 article also stressed North Korea’s achievement in becoming a “nuclear power” and that further nuclear and missile tests in the coming year could be possible. It thus appears that regime’s plan for 2018 is to continue the pursuit of nuclear weapons and the subsequent isolation of the country, while emphasizing that such endeavors are unavoidable given the threats posed by outside forces.
It is notable that the January 8 issue of the Rodong Sinmun did not make any special mention of Kim Jong Un’s birthday. Pages 1-3 contained information regarding a New Year’s proclamation-themed mass rally in Pyongyang, while one article entitled, “We are confident in our great victory,” emphasized the people’s “immense and unwavering trust in Kim Jong Un.”
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