North Korea is planning to move its wartime command center from its present location near the country’s famous Mt. Paektu to an area considered less isolated and vulnerable, according to sources.
The command center’s new location will be at Rason city, in North Hamgyong province, and construction on the site “will begin soon,” a source working for North Korea’s National Security Department said.
“Rason city has a railroad and a port, so it has advantages over [its present site] near Mt. Paektu, an active volcano with a high possibility of eruption,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The center’s present location at Samjiyeon in Yanggang province is also “cut off from the outside, and is not suitable for wartime command,” the source said.
Mt. Paektu, a mountain long considered sacred by Koreans, is at high risk of eruption within the next 20 years, according to scientists.
“The plan to move the wartime command center is well known among Party officials,” a North Korean defector confirmed, also speaking anonymously and referring to the ruling Workers Party.
He added that because many Russian and Chinese nationals live in Rason, North Korea considers Rason an “international” city, and thus safer from attack by the United States or South Korea.
Close to border
The city’s proximity to North Korea’s border also presents opportunities for escape to Russia or China by land or sea in the event of war, he said.
“Party officials who know about the relocation believe that the reason for the move is that it will provide for an emergency escape,” another source said, admitting to “bitter feelings” that authorities would plan for their own survival while ordinary people risk their lives in fighting.
North Korea and South Korea remain technically at war since the Korean War concluded nearly 60 years ago with a truce rather than a peace treaty.
Some 28,500 US troops are based in the South under a mutual defense pact signed during the conflict.
Cross-border tensions have been especially high since the South accused the North of torpedoing one of its warships with the loss of 46 lives in March 2010.
Pyongyang angrily denied involvement but went on to shell South Korea's front line Yeonpyeong island in November of the same year. The attack killed four South Koreans and briefly sparked fears of a full-scale conflict.
Reported by Sung Hui Moon for RFA’s Korean service. Translated by Juhyeon Park. Written in English by Richard Finney.