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Kim Jong Un tells North Korea pilots to 'improve' their skills

During a commemorative aviation tournament, Kim told North Korean pilots to improve their aviation skills and that they must prepare for a "settling of accounts."

By
Elizabeth Shim
In this recent photograph released Thursday, Kim Jong Un is seen with officers of the Korean People's Army during an aviation tournament that marks the 62nd anniversary of North Korea's Victory Day. Photo by Rodong Sinmun/Yonhap
In this recent photograph released Thursday, Kim Jong Un is seen with officers of the Korean People's Army during an aviation tournament that marks the 62nd anniversary of North Korea's "Victory Day." Photo by Rodong Sinmun/Yonhap

SEOUL, July 30 (UPI) -- Kim Jong Un attended a North Korea air force tournament and told pilots to improve their aviation skills on the Soviet-era fighter jets that comprise the bulk of Pyongyang's air force.

The date the competition was held remains unconfirmed, South Korean outlet Newsis reported on Thursday, but was to commemorate North Korea's "Victory Day," or the Armistice Agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

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Pyongyang's state media outlet KCNA announced on Thursday that the "revered Comrade Kim Jong Un" provided guidance at the Korean People's Army and rebel air force aviation tournament.

"[The fighter pilots] readily performed multiple air combat flight operations, including attacks, very low-altitude flights, special techniques and midair combat flight movements, while showing off their polished aviation skills," Pyongyang said.

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Kim Jong Un said afterward the crew and pilots must "respect the Party's training philosophy and objectives, and further improve upon their aviation skills...raise them high like the mountains."

Kim also said the air force must prepare for a "settling of accounts" with the "U.S. imperialists, the chief instigator of aggressions and the South Korean puppet regime."

South Korean news agency Yonhap reported the jets on display were mostly older models from the Soviet era.

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The North Korean leader arrived at the site, Kalma Airport in the port city of Wonsan, on North Korea's Air Force One, the Chammae-1. The model is a Soviet-style Ilyushin IL-62, according to South Korean analysts, and is typically used as commercial airliners.

North Korea's jets were primarily MiG-17 and MiG-21 aircrafts that were first produced in the former Soviet Union in the 1950s, analysts said. Nearly all planes at the tournament were more than 50 years old, according to Yonhap.

North Korean helicopter pilots flew the McDonnell Douglas MD 500 during the event, and Pyongyang displayed its most advanced weapon, the MiG-29, which is the North Korean equivalent of General Dynamics' F-16 Fighting Falcon.

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Analysts said North Korea began acquiring the MiG-29 in the 1990s.

KCNA footage showed top North Korea military brass at the tournament, including Korean People's Army Air Force Cmdr. Choi Yong Ho who was seen for the first time on Thursday's broadcast with four stars attached to his uniform.

As recently as July 22, Choi was seen wearing three stars.

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