May 06, 2010 12:07
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visited a naval base in Nampo immediately after his country lost a skirmish near Daecheong Island on Nov. 10, 2009, and called for "modernization of warfare strategy and equipment" to "regain strength at sea." The remarks sound ominous in view of the unexplained sinking of the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan on March 26 this year.
Kim is quoted as making the remarks by North Korean naval officer Kim Kwang-il of a naval unit identified only by the number 587 in a documentary by the North's official Korean Central Television celebrating the People's Army's anniversary on April 25. The program was repeated on Tuesday.
The officer recalls Kim's visit to the naval base in November and says, "He visited us in the early morning and boarded the moored vessel. He taught us to modernize weapons, strategies and equipment according to the needs of the time." Kim also inspected other ships and watched naval training, and urged officers to become heroes by being ready to form naval suicide squads, according to the officer.
A South Korean government official said unit 587 "is the showpiece of the North Korean naval base in Nampo. In retrospect after the sinking of the Cheonan, the fact that Kim Jong-il visited there after the battle in Daecheong Island and talked about naval suicide squads seems ominous."
The official KCNA news Agency on Nov. 27, 17 days after the skirmish, also reported that Kim visited Unit 587 along with other senior officials including Minister of the People’s Armed Forces Kim Yong-chun, the first vice-director of the People’s Army’s General Political Department, Kim Jong-gak, and Ri Yong-ho, the chief of the Army's General Staff. "Kim Jong-il proposed tasks to strengthen naval power," it said but did not elaborate.
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