North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has inspected a feared special forces unit, ordering them to strike at “lightning speed” once war breaks out, state media reported yesterday.
The inspection comes at a time of escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula, with multiple threats from the North of an armed response to joint South Korea-US military drills and to UN sanctions imposed after its nuclear test last month.
Kim, who holds the rank of Marshal in the Korean People’s Army, on Friday told Unit 1973 during a tour that their mission was to “conquer the strongholds of the enemy,” Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
“He said once a war breaks out, the unit should storm the heart of the enemies in a flash to strike and destroy the targeted military installations and reactionary ruling institutions of the puppet regime at a lightning speed,” KCNA reported.
Kim emphasized the need to conduct training under simulated battle conditions so the unit would be able to operate in enemy-controlled areas, KCNA said.
The special forces unit is believed to be based in the southwestern province of South Pyongan.
South Korea and the US launched an annual military drill this month, prompting Pyongyang to announce the scrapping of the 60-year-old Korean War armistice, along with several non-aggression pacts signed with the South.
The North has also threatened nuclear strikes on the Washington and Seou as reprisal for the new round of UN sanctions.
Last week, the North Korean leader issued a threat to “wipe out” Baengnyeong, a small frontline South Korean island.
While most statements have been dismissed as rhetorical bluster, the threat to Baengnyeong, which has 5,000 civilian residents as well military units, is highly credible and carries the weight of precedent.
In 2010, the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan was sunk in the area around Baengnyeong, killing 46 people. Later that same year, North Korea shelled the nearby South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, killing four.