This from Joongang Ilbo.
The North Korean military is conducting training on the Yellow Sea and East Sea, which could be infiltration exercises for additional attacks on the South, according to South Korean military sources. … “They are being observed doing military exercises in their bases, including a submarine base in Bipagot, Nampo, mobilizing five or six submarines,” a military source told the JoongAng Ilbo on Wednesday. Nampo is a city on the Yellow Sea near the Northern Limited Line, the de facto maritime inter-Korean border. The source said naval exercises were also observed in the East Sea. “It is very rare that the North performs submarine military exercises in March, so we are keeping a close eye on them,” the source said. According to some sources, the North also appears to be mobilizing new Shark-class 40-meter K-300 submarines in the exercises, in addition to older 35-meter submarines. (Edited for space.)
Since North Korea is also moving some hovercraft to the vicinity of the the disputed islands around the Northern Limit Line, additional emphasis is being put on watching all of these movements.
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Analysis. It would appear that North Korea’s requests for food aid have fallen on deaf ears. The “charm” offensive didn’t work so it is time to scare people again. This little demonstration may also be connected to the current meeting of the Supreme People’s Assembly and the elevation of Kim Jong Un to the National Defense Commission.
However, the Daily NK is carrying a story detailing how the price of rice has stabilized as the value of the NK Won has stabilized.
Despite it being the spring shortage season, the price of grain in North Korea’s markets is actually falling and the food security status of the average citizen is relatively good. … However, the price of rice in North Korea’s markets seems to be taking the urgency out of Choi’s public call for assistance, given that while Choi has flown all the way to Europe in pursuit of aid, the price of rice in the market is actually falling. On March 28th, the day Choi arrived, the price was 1,800 won, a colossal decline in comparison with the price at the end of January, which reached a momentary high of 3,000 won. The decline since then has been steady; from 3,000 won to 2,000 won last month, and even as low as 1,600 won at the turn of April.
In North Korea’s case, declining food prices are closely related to declining exchange rates, which have also been stable since mid-February. Where one Yuan was worth 520 won at the beginning of this year, it is now worth just 400 won. According to one domestic source who sells clothes in the market, “It looks like the price of rice will be 1,500 won by the middle of this month. There are sufficient supplies of rice in the market, so as long as you have money you can buy it anytime.” However, the picture is not perfect, because the people’s purchasing power is still not what it was and, in particular, those in the poorest classes struggle under high rates of interest on loans of money or food, making it hard to secure the supplies they need to survive.