North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un promoted over 100 military scientists for their contribution to the country’s nuclear weapons program, the official Korean Central News Agency reported on Tuesday.
In a press release, the state propaganda outlet announced that Kim had decided to “promote the military ranks of scientists in the field of national defense science research who have made great contributions to bolstering up the military capabilities for self-defense.”
The statement went on to explain how the scientists had “performed feats to be specially recorded by developing and completing new powerful weapon systems one after another which are of key importance in defending the Party, the revolution, the country and the people and guaranteeing the victorious advance of the revolutionary cause of Juche with matchless military strength.”
The promotion of so many people within one field at the same time is unusual for the North Korean regime, suggesting they intend to show off their defense capabilities and aggressive pursuit of nuclear weapons.
According to the KCNA:
[Kim] highly praised the scientists in the field of national defence science research for providing an epoch-making turning point in bolstering up the country’s military capabilities for self-defense and successfully implementing the strategic plan and intention of the Party by settling highly difficult technological problems of the ultra-modern national defense science with indomitable spiritual strength and remarkable creative power and by researching and developing new weapon systems with our own efforts, wisdom and technology.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) August 7, 2019
One of those promoted was Jon Il-ho, one of the regime’s four “missile men,” to the position of lieutenant general. As noted by Chosun Ilbo, Jon is a member of the Academy of National Defense Science and is often seen with Kim during missile tests. Some of the other leading missile scientists include Ri Pyong-Chol, the first deputy director of the Munitions Industry Department; Kim Jong-Sik, Ri’s deputy; and Jang Chang-ha, the director of the academy.
Despite ongoing peace negotiations with the United States and South Korea, the plethora of promotions indicates the regime is committed to pursuing weapons technology until a comprehensive agreement is reached. In recent months, Kim has conducted multiple missile launches in violation of U.N. sanctions.
President Donald Trump argued in May that the missile tests did not represent a “breach of trust” despite the ongoing peace talks.
“I don’t consider that a breach of trust at all. And, you know, at some point I may. But at this point no,” Trump said in an interview with Politico. “These were short-range missiles and very standard stuff. Very standard.”
The moment President Trump meets Chairman Kim at the DMZ and becomes the first sitting President to enter North Korea: pic.twitter.com/VwqGAEmmxz
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) June 30, 2019
Following their meeting at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) bordering North and South Korea, Trump appears to have taken a sympathetic tone to the communist despot, revealing that Kim had sent him a “small apology” for the recent tests in a letter to complain about joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises.
“In a letter to me sent by Kim Jong Un, he stated, very nicely, that he would like to meet and start negotiations as soon as the joint U.S./South Korea joint exercise are over,” he wrote on Twitter. “It was a long letter, much of it complaining about the ridiculous and expensive exercises.”
“It was also a small apology for testing the short range missiles, and that this testing would stop when the exercises end,” he continued. “I look forward to seeing Kim Jong Un in the not too distant future! A nuclear free North Korea will lead to one of the most successful countries in the world!”