N. Korean leader Kim promotes scientists for their contribution in weapon development

Richard Post, Aug. 13, 2019, 9:16 a.m.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has promoted the military ranks of scientists for their contribution to developing new weapons and bolstering national defense, Pyongyang's state media reported Tuesday.

Kim issued an order to promote the ranks of 103 scientists "in the field of national defense science research who have made great contributions to bolstering up the military capabilities for self-defense," according to the Korean Central News Agency.

Kim highly praised the scientists for providing an "epoch-making turning point" in strengthening the country's military capabilities and "settling highly difficult technological problems of the ultra-modern national defense science," the KCNA said.

The North's main newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, also carried a report on Kim's order on its front page, with a list of those promoted.

Jon Il-ho, who accompanied Kim in the North's latest series of projectile launches, was promoted to a three-star position, the highest ranking among those promoted.

Jon's official position was not immediately known, but he has often accompanied the leader when the North has conducted major missile tests since 2017.

In North Korea, military ranks are awarded to civilians in recognition of their contributions to the country.

The promotion came after North Korea conducted test-firings of missiles in recent weeks. The North fired two projectiles believed to be short-range ballistic missiles Saturday, the fifth such launch since late July.

Pyongyang has claimed that it tested new tactical guided weapons on July 25 and that it fired a newly developed large-caliber multiple launch guided rocket system in two subsequent firings on July 31 and Aug. 2.

Earlier, leader Kim inspected a newly developed submarine that South Korea's military sees as capable of carrying multiple submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).

Following the firing of "new-type tactical guided missiles" on Aug. 6, North Korean media reported that Kim had a group photo taken with scientists and workers in the field of munitions, a move observers say might be signaling the completion of the development of new weapons the North has tested.

A unification ministry official said the latest promotion seems to be aimed at encouraging military officials and boosting internal unity.

"We need more analysis, but it is hard to say that the promotion was directly related to the latest missile launches," the official said.

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