When North Korea’s Military Successfully Fought Zionist Israel (1973)

Kim Il Sung and /yasser Arafat

(Research and Translation by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)

Following the ‘Six Day War’ of 1967, which saw an expansionist Israeli illegally annex more Palestinian land – and land of its Arab neighbours – the Soviet Union cut-off all diplomatic relations with Zionist Israel, and stepped-up its economic and military aid to the Arab countries of the surrounding region. The Soviet strategists pin-pointed the US supplied Israeli Airforce, as being the key attribute of Zionist Israel’s imperial power. Zionist Israel always used its US-supplied military aircraft to devastate the large Arab military ground formations, using modern technology to sweep aside any competing Arab Airforces. Once air supremacy and/or air superiority had been achieved, the US-supplied Zionist Israeli ground forces would go in, causing high casualties and confusions in the defending Arab armies. The Soviet thinking was to construct a region-wide (and integrated) surface to air missile defence system, calibrated to exactly target and neutralise incoming Zionist Israeli warplanes. Without Zionist Israel gaining air superiority and/or air supremacy, its ground forces would be unprotected as they aggressively moved into lands beyond the geographical borders of Zionist Israel. As the combined Arab armies possessed far more soldiers than Zionist Israel’s imperialist troops, the logic dictated that the Arab weight of numbers should carry the day. Zionist Israel would be defeated, and the Arab countries could go to the UN and ‘demand’ freedom for Palestine.

President Nasser of Egypt resented the loss of land sustained by Egypt in the ‘Six Days War’ at the hands of Zionist Israel. His successor – President Sadat – eventually lost patience with the thousands of Soviet military advisors present in Egypt – and had all Soviet forces expelled during July, 1972. This situation left in place an elaborate Soviet air defence system that needed expertise to operate it. In the meantime, The activities of North Korea had impressed the Egyptians, particularly with regard to its detaining of USS Pueblo – a US warship disguised as a ‘research’ ship which had deliberately entered North Korean waters on a spying mission. North Korean forces attacked and successfully boarded the USS Pueblo on January 23rd, 1968 – killing one US servicemen and capturing the 83-man crew (which were held for 11 months in captivity). Also at this time, North Korean military activities aimed at the US imperialist forces on the Korean Peninsula dramatically increased, with the seizure of the USS Pueblo coming less than a week after President Lyndon Johnson’s State of the Union address to the United States Congress, and a week before the start of the Tet Offensive in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Another significant event at this time involved a North Korean special forces detachment crossing into US-controlled South Korea. This happened three days before the North Korean seizure of the USS Pueblo, and saw 31 men of North Korea’s KPA Unit 124 cross the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and kill 26 South Koreans puppet soldiers, in an attempt to attack the South Korean Blue House in the capital Seoul. Then, on April 15th, 1969, North Korean forces shot-down the US EC-121 reconnaissance (spy) plane for violating North Korean air space. This highly successful military activity against the US imperialist forces in and around the Korean Peninsular impressed many Arab leaders, and led to Egypt requesting help to man its air defences in the event of any war with Zionist Israel.

North Korean Airforce

Whereas the Egyptians thought that the Soviet Union was not providing the latest military equipments to the Arab forces, it was well-known that since the fall of Khrushchev in Russia, and as part of a Soviet initiative to heal the Sino-Soviet Split – the USSR had been providing the most advanced weaponry to the Korean People’s Army (KPA) – with North Korea being a staunch ally of Communist China. From March, 1973, North Korean officials arrived in Egypt for talks, and toured the major areas of potential conflict (including the Suez Canal). This was when the Egyptian government formally requested that North Korea send military pilots to help defend Egypt from Zionist Israeli attack. This request was agreed to, with North Korean officials stating that in support of Arab Socialism, the North Korean regime will defend Egyptian territory from any Western-led, imperialist attack. In a short time, North Korean military pilots and their support crews were established on Egyptian territory, which led to Zionist Israel announcing on August 15th, 1973, the presence of the North Korean military forces in Egypt. Whereas both Egypt and North Korea issued official statements of denial, Zionist Israel stated that it would ‘destroy’ Egypt for daring to seek allies outside the region. This Zionist Israeli threat of military violence would come to fruition with the so-called ‘Yom Kippur War’.

Kim Il Sung’s viewpoint was that an alliance between Egypt and North Korea would be beneficial to both sides, militarily and economically. North Korean pilots had been fighting the US imperialists over North Vietnam, and this experience could be imparted to their Egyptian counter-parts. On the other hand, the highly aggressive and racist imperialism of Israeli Zionism created a new and highly focused form of Western, imperialist military strategy and tactics. It would be good experience for North Korean pilots to experience this highly aggressive form of imperialist expansionism, and formulate an appropriate ‘Socialist’ response to it. This is why Kim Il Sung also authorised a special military advisory group be immediately despatched to Egypt.

During June 1973, 1,500 North Korean military advisers were secretly despatched to Egypt to help the Egyptian Air Defense Force operate surface-to-air missiles (based around West Cairo). As a result of wearing civilian clothes, these soldiers were disguised as ordinary North Korean labourers working overseas (to earn foreign exchange currency). This clever deception cheated the intelligence agencies of the United States, South Korea and Israel. Before this, however, a large consultative delegation had already arrived in Egypt, consisting of 39 members of the North Korean Airforce Mission, which had long been involved in fighting for Egypt. Among these North Korean, there were 20 pilots, 8 ground technicians, 5 translators, 3 administrative personnel and 1 Political commissar, a medic and a cook, with the designated Team Leader being North Korean Airforce Chief of Staff – Zhao Minglu (赵明禄). Most of the early North Koreans pilots who went to Egypt were mostly ‘Veteran’ fighter-pilots with more than 2,000 flying hours and were experienced combat personnel. Upon their arrival, they began to guide their Egyptian allies in training, and conducted combat readiness flights along the Suez line.

In formulating plans for a theoretical battle over Sinai Peninsula, Zhao Minglu, Sadat, and Mubarak held a number of joint meetings to study a plan for the suppression of the dominant Israeli Airforce. Zhao Minglu proposed a surprise attack by the Egyptian Airforce (similar to that used by the Israeli Airforce during the ‘Six-Day War’), as a means of psychologically and physically devastating the Zionist aggressor. This daring tactic would involve Egyptian fighters not to directly fly to the east bank of the Suez Canal, but instead head directly northward to the hinterland of the Sinai (through low-altitude flying). This would enable the Egyptian Airforce to avoid the frontline Zionist defences, using the ‘Art of War’ principle of ‘Replying in kind’ (lit: ‘Treat Others as They Treat You’).  After some careful preparations, on October 6th, 1973, the ‘Yom Kippur’ (Day of Atonement) Offensive began. With the help of North Korea’s Advisory Team, the Egyptian Airforce dispatched an attack formation consisting of 200 fighters, which succeed in surprising the Zionist Israeli Forces (which suffered heavy losses). South Korea’s media quoted an Israeli Ministry of Defense communiqué stating that North Korean pilots in Egypt – flying eight MiG-21 fighter jets – had shot down many Zionist Israeli F-4E fighters.

Although the ‘Yom Kippur War’ eventually ended in a draw between the Arab countries and Israel, the experience served to escalate the relations between Egypt and North Korea to the point of ‘blood alliance.’ Mubarak also established a profound friendship with Kim Il Sung. Eventually, in the years after the ‘Yom Kippur War’, Egypt turned to the United States and dismissed the Soviet Union as an ally in its fight against Zionist Israel. However, North Korea remained loyal to helping Egypt’s army and its development. In 1977, Egypt transferred two R-17E (Scud-B) missiles to North Korea and at least one 9P117 launch vehicle. These weapons were all that was given that year as Soviet aid to Egypt. Egypt’s gift was shipped back to Nampo Port by a North Korean freighter and was forwarded to Pyongyang’s Machinery Factory (code-named ;Pyongyang Pig-Raising Factory’) on January 25th, a subsidiary of the Second Economic Commission, for imitation. The mimicked missile was named ‘Hua City-5’. The first batch testing of 6 sample bombs was conducted during April-September 1984 with three successful and unsuccessful operations.

After the assassination of Sadat in 1981, Mubarak succeeded as President. In the Middle East, Egypt became a staunch ally of the United States, but on the Korean Peninsula, Egypt refused to recognize South Korea (because it was a colony of the US). Mubarak once told DPRK officials: ‘I will stick to the covenant with Chairman Kim Il Sung and vow to not establish diplomatic relations with South Korea.’ On April 6th, 1983, at a ceremony welcoming Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s visit to North Korea, Chairman Kim Il Sung said: ‘During the 1973 war, North Korea and Egypt fought side by side like brothers.’ Not until the second year after Kim Il Sung’s death, in 1995, did Mubarak establish diplomatic ties with South Korea – but only after Communist China had also established such ties. Communist China is North Korea’s staunchest ally in the region.

©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2017.

Chinese Language Reference:



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