North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspected the 318th military unit on the eastern frontline "in tempestuous rains," the North's official KCNA news agency reported Tuesday. Earlier on Aug. 23 it said Kim visited a women-only coastal artillery battery on the eastern coast.
Kim did not return to Pyongyang last Saturday, when the regime marked the 52nd anniversary of former leader Kim Jong-il's "military-first revolutionary leadership." Instead he attended a commemorative concert given by the Morangong troupe at an unidentified location on the eastern frontline. The Central Military Commission and the National Defense Commission also threw a banquet marking the anniversary on the eastern frontline.
He did not even attend a massive event in Pyongyang celebrating August 28 Youth Day, which he himself had launched.
The extended stay on the eastern frontline is being linked to annual joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises that began last week.
"Kim Jong-un has been inspecting frontline units since he visited a defense detachment on Mudo Island in the West Sea and made threats against the South each time," a South Korean military source said. "This seems to be his way of responding" to the joint drill.
But a South Korean security official disagreed. "It seems Kim Jong-un is enjoying a summer vacation at a guest house in Wonsan and visits nearby military units to mollify the military elite, who have been on edge since Army chief Ri Yong-ho was purged."
Other experts speculate that floods are preventing Kim's return to Pyongyang. A Unification Ministry official said, "Given the bad road conditions there, it's likely that roads and railways crossing the Taebaek Mountains east to west have been washed away by recent heavy rains. It's possible that he is waiting there until they're restored."