Photo from Kim Jong Un’s war room reveals North Korea’s ‘U.S. mainland strike plan’

March 29, 2013

Update, 12:50 p.m., EDT: The Associated Press believes that this photo from North Korean state media may have been digitally altered, which has certainly happened before. If it were, that would seem to underscore North Korea's intent to send a specific propaganda message with the photo.


(Reuters/KCNA)

North Korea's state media agencies have been releasing a slew of photos showing the country's actual military build-up, which we are meant to understand is a prelude to war. They are probably bluffing, but you have to admire their attention to detail.

Early on Friday, the Korean Central News Agency released the above photo. Reuters, using the KCNA information, passed on the photo with a caption that began, "North Korean leader Kim Jong Un presides over an urgent operation meeting on the Korean People's Army Strategic Rocket Force's performance of duty for firepower strike at the Supreme Command in Pyongyang." According to Reuters, the large chart on the left bears the title, "Strategic force's plan to hit the mainland of the U.S."

James Pearson of NK News also looked at the photo, writing in a post that "plans for a strike on the U.S. mainland are clearly – and therefore probably deliberately – visible." Pearson says that the photo has been published in the North Korean newspaper Rodong, which is widely distributed and often displayed in public.

The chart also appears to show a series of lines shooting out of North Korea and landing on major U.S. cities on the East and West coasts, as well as Hawaii.

Let's be clear about two things before we go any further. First, as Pearson notes, this is almost certainly for domestic propaganda purposes, which is why it's displayed so clearly. Second, North Korea does not even have the military capability to strike any American cities, particularly not on the East coast. "Red Dawn" was a work of fiction.

Now to the photos. NK News has kindly granted me permission to repost Pearson's annotations of the images, which appear to show the plan's "targets." (He did ask me to point readers toward the NK News daily e-mail service, which I can recommend without reservation.) Here's the first, with the chart labeled "U.S. Mainland Strike Plan":


Modified by James Pearson of NK News (KCNA)

Pearson then superimposed a Google map of the United States and the Pacific over the chart, which shows pretty clearly that the "targets" line up with major U.S. cities on the West and East coasts.


Modified by James Pearson of NK News (KCNA)

But what else is in that office? Pearson combined the above image with another KCNA photo of the same room (it's a composite, which is why Kim shows up twice), to give us a better sense of the space.


Modified by James Pearson of NK News (KCNA)

What do you know, Kim Jong Un's secret war room contains an iMac, designed with care in California by the same evil American imperialists he is purportedly preparing to destroy. That irony, one imagines, did not make it into the domestic propaganda coverage.

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Max Fisher | March 29, 2013