North Korea: Update and comment
Over the weekend NightWatch checked North Korean diplomatic activity to determine the extent of the semi-state of war alert.
Three foreign delegations arrived in Pyongyang on 26 October and were greeted by high level North Korean officials. The alert began in the early morning of the 26th. The delegations arrived during the day.
That information directly indicates that the alert is partial, not in support of national war preparations, and indirectly indicates that international flight activity at Sunan international airport is normal.
Those inferences signify that the alert is at least a precaution against a surprise attack during the Allied exercise. It still also might be related to leadership stability issues. It does not suggest a provocation against South Korea is in the works.
In addition to the above, Kim Jong-un attended three public events at Kim Il-sung Military University. First reported was the unveiling of statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Chong-il at the university, where “Marshal” Kim took a military parade and salute by the students.
Next was a soccer match between the army team, April 25 (April 25 is the KPA anniversary date), and the Sonbong sports club. In the evening Kim attended a band concert in honor of Kim Il-sung Military University’s 60th anniversary on the 29th. His wife accompanied him to the soccer match and the concert.
Interestingly, Kim’s father never permitted the North Korean media to date reports of his public appearances, apparently as a security precaution. Kim Jong-un’s appearances usually are dated. The young Kim appears to be trying to ease some of the austerity of the regime’s practices, but with only limited success.
Generally, leadership activities look normal in the North.
South Korea-North Korea: Some 40 members of a South Korean civic group launched tens of thousands of leaflets denouncing the North Korean regime across the border between the two countries on 29 October, causing brief scuffles between group members and residents in the border town of Paju.
Comment: The North’s alert posture appears more aimed at the Allied exercise in progress than at the leaflet launches. Nevertheless, the South Korean activists are almost daring the North to act on its threat to retaliate against their launch sites with artillery fire.
South Korean authorities almost certainly know about the leaflet launches but have only stopped one. North Korean authorities with some justification will assume the South is at least in complicity with the launches, which appear to be using the Allied exercise as a window of opportunity for sending the anti-Kim regime leaflets across the Demilitarized Zone.