August 16, 2011 11:58
North Korean military units talked about the possibility of shooting down a helicopter carrying Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin during his visit to a frontline unit in July, officials here said Monday. Intelligence agencies have started investigating whether the North Koreans actually tried to shoot down Kim's helicopter and how they got hold of his frontline tour schedule.
"We intercepted communication between North Korean military units, which exchanged messages about their plan to shoot down the helicopter carrying Kim on July 1, when he visited the 15th Army Division on the eastern frontline," a government official said. "The North Korean military didn't actually attack the helicopter, but this shows that the North is capable of trying to harm him anytime."
Kim took the helicopter as scheduled because the Defense Ministry concluded it was flying outside the range of North Korean anti-aircraft artillery, he said. "Since the intercepted communication was unencoded, we also suspected at the time that the North Korean threat was for show and they didn't actually intended to shoot down the helicopter," the official added.
Kim visited Hill 735 under the 15th Army Division's supervision, where he spoke to soldiers excavating human remains from the Korean War. He then inspected the guards at an observation post a mere 2 km away from the nearest North Korean guard post in the demilitarized zone.
In June, the North sent a message to Cheong Wa Dae, calling for Kim Kwan-jin, whom it called a "warmonger," to be replaced.
An intelligence officer said the threats to Kim since June are believed to have something to do with the use of pictures for target practice of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, and Kim Jong-un by some reserve units here.
But how did the North get wind of Kim Kwan-jin's schedule? A military officer said, "In the DMZ, the North obtains information by intercepting our communications, just as we do. It's possible likelihood that the North intercepted communications between some of our frontline units that were preparing for Kim's visit."
Kim later said, "Whenever our helicopters fly in the DMZ area, frontline North Korean units get busy" exchanging communications between themselves about shooting the aircraft down.
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