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(LEAD) N. Korean leader visits military unit for first time in 5 months

All Headlines 10:55 April 17, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS 2nd photo, more info, analyst's comment in last 3 paras)

SEOUL, April 17 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has made a surprise visit to an air force unit and reviewed a flight exercise, the official news agency reported Wednesday, in his first public inspection of military activities in five months.

During the visit to the Unit 1017 of the Air and Anti-aircraft Force of the Korean People's Army on Tuesday, Kim ordered pilots to "take off and perform difficult and complicated air combat actions," the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

"Noting that while passing by the unit he abruptly dropped in at the unit in order to learn about the flight drill of a pursuit assault plane group, Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un said it is important to make a sudden inspection of the regular readiness of unit as a fight of the air and anti-aircraft field is waged without previous notice," KCNA said.

Kim also expressed "great satisfaction over the excellent readiness to carry out any combat task irrespective of conditions and environment," the report said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspects a flight drill of the North's Air and Anti-aircraft Force on April 16, 2019, in this photo released by the Korean Central News Agency on April 17. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

The visit was Kim's first reported military activity after he supervised a "newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon test" in November.

Ranking party officials, including the country's newly appointed No. 2 leader, Choe Ryong-hae, accompanied Kim, according to the KCNA.

Kim visited the Ministry of People's Armed Forces in February but just delivered a speech to celebrate the founding anniversary of the Korean People's Army.

Also on Tuesday, the North's leader inspected a fish farm with his wife, Ri Sol-ju, calling on officials to apply a "scientific, modern, industrial and intensive basis" to fish farming, according to the KCNA.

Analysts say Kim's visit to the military unit and the fish farm on the same day seems to be aimed at demonstrating that he cares about not only the economy but also national security amid the stalled negotiating process with the United States.

"The visits are apparently aimed at easing people's concerns over military readiness while encouraging them to focus on improving the country's economy in the face of the collapse of the Hanoi summit," said researcher Kim Dong-yub at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (L) tours a military fish farm in Sinchang, northeastern North Korea, on April 16, 2019, in this photo released by the Korean Central News Agency the next day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)


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