North Korea’s defense industry needs to improve production quality and modernize, the General of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) was reported as saying on Sunday in Pyongyang.
The call, which was made at a ‘Day of Songun’ anniversary meeting of senior political, military and state figures, comes following mounting reports of air force plane crashes and malfunctioning equipment in North Korea this past twelve months.
“Those in the field of national defence industry should produce quality Korean-style ultra-modern weapons and equipment at the best level,” said General of the KPA, Ri Yong Gil.
Doing so would “raise the level of modernization of the weapons and equipment of the People’s Army…” Ri said. The comment came amid other remarks about Kim Jong Il’s historic prioritization of the military over other sectors.
North Korea’s army, air force and navy are widely known to suffer from their reliance on vintage, Soviet-era hardware, for which spare parts can be difficult to source.
In the past twelve months, independent reports detailed how on separate occasions three North Korean MiG 19 fighters and one helicopter were said to have crashed. The MiG 19 entered service in the Soviet Union in 1953.
Although North Korean state media rarely concedes of problems with the nation’s military hardware, in November last year KCNA announced that one of its vessels had sunk while performing “combat duties” near Wonsan, killing at least 19 sailors.
And this year, Kim Jong Un was pictured riding a rusty, 1950s-era Romeo class submarine, much to the surprise of analysts used to North Korean leaders only inspecting the countries most modern military hardware.
Despite the call for “Korean-style ultra-modern weapons,” North Korea might look to Russia or China to acquire modern hardware, said Joost Oliemans, a Dutch North Korea military specialist.
“As 90 percent of North Korea’s debt to Russia has been written off earlier this year and Russia has shown to be open to exporting weapons systems despite international sanctions, it appears likely that modern equipment will be finding its way in from that direction.
“Although relations appear to be at a low point, China too has shown continuing military support in the past years in the form of thousands of jeeps and trucks delivered to the reclusive state, so we might be seeing modernisation efforts using that route as well in the near future,” added Oliemans.
North Korea’s ‘Day of Songun’ anniversary meeting took place at Pyongyang’s April 25 House of Culture on Sunday to mark what state media describe as the 54th anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s prioritization of military-first policy.
A source in Pyongyang, who asked to remain anonymous, told NK News on Monday that “thousands” of people were out “in the parks and river banks of the Pothonggang and Taedonggang rivers.”
Songun Day was not previously a major focus of celebration under the leadership of Kim Jong Il, appearing in national propaganda for the first time last year.
Songun, or military-first policy, broadly emerged during the famine of the 1990s as a way of legitimizing the prioritization of resources to the military.
But official propaganda dates Kim Jong Il’s push to promote the cause of the military as having started in 1960, when he was just 19 years of age.
“Kim Jong Il’s inspection of the Seoul Ryu Kyong Su Guards 105th Tank Division of the KPA on August 25, Juche 49 (1960) marked an historic event heralding the fresh start of the WPK’s Songun revolutionary leadership,” the KCNA said on Sunday.
The ‘Day of Songun’ meeting takes place as North Korean criticism of looming U.S. – ROK military drills has increased in pace.
Main picture: NK News
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