North Korea has been conducting rare mass evacuation and blackout drills throughout the secretive country in preparation for war, it emerged this weekend.
Multiple sources with long experience working inside or on the country told NK News that the drills have taken place in secondary and tertiary cities and towns, particularly along the east coast, but not in the capital city, Pyongyang.
The revelation comes during a time of heightening tensions between the hermit state and the US after a series of nuclear and missile tests, including an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of striking mainland America.
But such blackout and evacuation drills are extremely rare in North Korea, making it difficult to gauge their purpose amid the current atmosphere.
“I have never heard of this type of training exercises before in North Korea, but am not surprised,” said LTG Chun In-bum, a recently retired three star lieutenant general from the South Korean army. “They must realize how serious the situation is.”
In addition, a regular visitor insider with years of experience visiting the country told NK News that they had “never heard of (such preparations) happening.”
“There used to be air raid drills in 2003, but not since then,” the source said, who didn’t want to be identified due to the sensitivities of talking about military issues to the media. “A mass evacuation would be impossible not to notice.”
Another regular visitor working in the country conferred: “I have never heard of evacuation exercises happening before.”
But one defector from Pyongyang said he recalled experiencing similar drills in the city “sometimes three times a year…especially at the time of military exercises of ROK and U.S. army.”
While evacuation drills – precise details of which were not provided by sources – may be prudent as far as helping save lives in the event of bombing campaigns in affected areas, blackout exercises have much more limited utility in the contemporary military environment.
“In this day and age of precision bombing and all weather capabilities, (such) North Korean civil exercises either come from ignorance of modern war or just a propaganda campaign to frightening their own people and induce obedience,” LTG Chun said.
Taking place outside the capital, such preparations are also starkly different to spring 2013, when during a period of sustained inter-Korean confrontation, Pyongyang authorities took steps that appeared intended to foster a sense of crisis.
At the time, these measures included urging resident diplomats to evacuate, declaring the decades-long inter-Korean armistice invalid or requesting local vehicles in Pyongyang cover roofs with camouflage netting.
Experts are divided about whether the unusual North Korean drills are a sign that the regime feels more threatened than before, or wants to create the perception that it is taking care of its citizens.
The threat of nuclear missile attack by North Korea is accelerating, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Saturday during a trip to the South Korean capital, Seoul, to meet his counterpart, Defense Minister Song Young-moo.
“North Korea has accelerated the threat that it poses to its neighbors and the world through its illegal and unnecessary missile and weapons programs,” he said, adding that US-South Korean military and diplomatic collaboration had taken on “a new urgency.”
Mattis warned that the US would never accept a nuclear north and that dictator Kim Jong-un was overmatched by American firepower.
Defectors have spoken of frequent air raid drills during times of tension, but not in recent years.
In 1994, during a confrontation with Washington over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, daily air raid drills reportedly took place.
In 2013, when relations with South Korea were tense, the North Koreans also fostered a sense of crisis by requesting Pyongyang vehicles to cover their roofs with camouflage netting.
Some analysts argue that fiery statements from President Donald Trump may have created genuine fear.
At the UN General Assembly in September, Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if provoked. The US military has also ramped up military deployments near the Korean peninsula.
H/T The Telegraph