Archive for the ‘Military’ Category

The December 7 Factory: Producer of maxi pads and naval stealth technology

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

This is my first article with Joseph Bermudez. The subject–the December 7 Facotry aka Korean People’s Army Unit 1501.

The detective work used in this article was a lot of fun.

You can read it here on 38 North.

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KPA Journal Vol. 2, No. 12

Monday, January 20th, 2014

The latest issue of KPA journal came out a few days ago. You can download it here.

Topics include:

  • KPN 30mm CIWS
  • KPA Lessons Learned From Foreign Conflicts (III)
  • Spaced Armor Screening for KPA Tanks
  • KPA Antennas (II)
  • KPN Training Aids
  • Organization of the KPA Tank Battalion
  • Editor’s Notes and Endnotes

A comprehensive index of all articles published in KPA Journal is available here.

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DPRK joins international satellite organization

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

According to Yonhap:

North Korea joined the International Mobile Satellite Organization (IMSO) convention last month as part of an ongoing effort contribute to the development of maritime transportation and safety, state media said Monday.

The Korean Central News Agency, citing the chief delegate to the general assembly of the International Maritime Organization said Pyongyang officially joined the convention on Oct. 15.

The delegate who attended the London meeting said Pyongyang will take steps to improve friendly relations with other members of the organization. The North’s news wire service did not disclose the name of the official.

The IMSO is an international body that uses satellites to regulate the movement of ships and maritime communication. South Korea’s telecom giant KT joined in 1985.

As part of its contribution, the North plans to set up and operate 25 very high frequency wireless stations along its eastern and western coasts starting next year, and actively pursue projects that can better preserve the maritime environment.

North Korean watchers, meanwhile, speculated that the North’s joining of the convention is part of an ongoing effort to mend fences and improve its image within the international community.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea joins int’l satellite organization
Yonhap
2013-12-2

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Kim Jong Il Military Postgraduate Institute

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

KJU-grad-school

KJU-grad-school-2

Pictured above: 2013-11-4 satellite image of the Kim Jong Il Military Postgraduate Institute

UPDATE 1 (2014-4-26):  The Kim Jong Il Military Postgraduate Institute has officially opened. According to KCNA:

Kim Jong Il Military Postgraduate Institute Completed

Pyongyang, April 26 (KCNA) — Kim Jong Il Military Postgraduate Institute where the statue of leader Kim Jong Il is standing was completed at Kim Il Sung Military University on the occasion of the 82nd anniversary of the Korean People’s Army.

The institute has all educational facilities and environment at the highest level as befitting the university which was established and has developed under the energetic guidance and loving care of the great Generalissimos Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.

The successful completion of the institute as required by the Songun era made it possible to glorify for all ages Kim Jong Il’s feats performed for army-building, develop the university into the one of the Generalissimos for training all-round military officers fully equipped with Kim Il Sung’s and Kim Jong Il’s strategy and tactics and increase the combat capabilities of the invincible revolutionary Paektusan army in every way.

A ceremony of its completion was held with splendor Friday.

Present there were Jang Jong Nam, Kim Ki Nam, officials of armed forces organ, instructors and cadets and employees of the university, officials of military schools at all levels, service personnel of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), servicemen’s families and officials of the units which made contributions to erecting the statue.

The statue of Kim Jong Il was unveiled by leading officials of army and the institute.

A floral basket was laid before the statue in the august name of Kim Jong Un, supreme leader of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), state and revolutionary armed forces.

Also laid there were a floral basket in the joint name of the Central Committee and Central Military Commission of the WPK and the National Defence Commission of the DPRK and a floral basket in the name of the institute.

Placed there were floral baskets in the name of the KPA General Staff, the KPA General Political Bureau, the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces, KPA units at all levels, military schools, and units associated with leadership exploits of the peerlessly great persons.

The participants paid tribute to the statue.

Jang Jong Nam, minister of the People’s Armed Forces, spoke at the ceremony.

He said:

Kim Jong Il made sure that an institute, the highest course in military education of the DPRK, was built at the university and specified those to be trained, scope, educational method and contents, thereby building it into a prestigious and comprehensive center for training military cadres.

The appearance of the institute as the highest seat for training military commanding officers which goes by the august name of Kim Jong Il is a precious fruition of the energetic guidance given by Marshal Kim Jong Un.

The speaker called on the institute to train more persons possessed of sense of obligation who share intention and sincerity with the supreme commander despite rain or snow, true fighters equipped with Kim Il Sung’s and Kim Jong Il’s strategy and tactics, heroic fighting spirit and perfect capability to fight an actual war and tiger-like fighters of Mt. Paektu.

The participants looked round the statue, after being briefed on it.

Here is footage from KCTV:

Original Post (2013-11-20): Kim Jong-un has visited the “Kim Jong Il Military Postgraduate Institute” (김일성군사종합대학 김정일군사연구원) under construction in Mangyongdae. As we can see from the satellite imagery this is a significant expansion of the school’s capacities. It is still unclear what specific role the new graduate school is intended to play, but Rodong Sinmun tells us the following:

He said that it is of weighty importance to build the institute, a center for training dependable military personnel of the party, at the university which was founded and developed under the energetic leadership and loving care of Generalissimos Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong.

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DPRK debt

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future, Victor Cha, 2012, p116-118.

The third bad decision took place in the 1970s. It related to foreign debt. The DPRK continued the same trends of previous decade as economic resources were diverted to the military. Despite having half the population, North Korean military spending exceeded that of the South every year from 1968 to 1979. The buildup of this decade included increasing the size of the armed forces from 485,000 to 680,000, which was twice that of the ROK. By 1980, troop number stood at 720,000 and continued to swell, with the majority deployed along the thirty-eighth parallel with their sights set on the South. Special forces grew from 15,000(1970) to 41,000(1978)The military began Scud missile development, boosted its submarine and surface flee, and the air force grew to over 200 attack plane. The army added 2,500 armed personnel carriers, about 1,000 heavy tanks, and 6,000 or so artillery tubes and rocket launchers. Military doctrine was revamped to increase the speed, power, and lethality of attacks in combat, focusing on rapid advance advance and infiltration tactics. In spite of its relatively limited technological base, by 1992 the North had twice the number of tanks and artillery that U.S-ROK defenses had in the South.

Academic Lee Hy-Sang, who has written one of the best scholarly treatment of the North Korean economy, has noted that this obsession with aggrandizing the military was driven by ideology as much as it was by external security threats. Self-reliance required the strongest military one could muster. The net effect, however, was an increasingly reckless and irresponsible approach to the economy. In order to offset the strain of the military budget on the economy, the DPRK should have directed efforts at excavating coal and other mineral resources to trade for hard currency, which mighty then have been used to finance heavy industry development, and to address energy shortages. Instead, the government decided to engage in massive borrowing from foreign markets. At the times, it seemed like the right decision. Sino-American rapprochement and U.S.-Soviet detente transformed relations between the East and West, and in this wider political context Western European countries were willing to extend credit to countries like North Korea. More important, the North began looking over its its shoulder as the 1970s saw the gradual acceleration of South Korean growth and development of major heavy industries like the Pohang Steel Complex.

So, in 1972, Pyongyang borrowed $80 million from France to build a fertilizer plant. The following year they borrowed another $160 million, from the United Kingdom to build a cement factory. In 1974, they borrowed $400 million from countries including Japan for large-scale plant equipment. In fact, between 1970 and 1975, the North borrowed approximately $1.2 billion before foreign governments realized that Pyongyang could not service the debt, These numbers do not account for whatever else might have been provided to the North from Eastern bloc countries and China.Thus, in 1976, the debt market dried up for the North as precipitously as it had opened to them six years earlier. Trapped by it own self-reliance ideology, the North could not do things normal nations would, such as issue bonds to finance its debt. Today, North Korea’s external debt is estimated $12.5 billion and no one expects them to pay it off. An attempt was made to pay back some of this in 1990 and 1991, but the DPRK has long since defaulted on its long-term debt. Pyongyang has occasionally asked Russia and former Soviet satellites like Czech Republic to forgive the majority of the debt. In response, these countries have asked for North Korea to repay part of the debt through barter. Pyongyang asked Russia in 2007 to make a “high-level political decision” to forgive $8.8 billion in unpaid debt. In August 2010, Prague asked for zinc ore as repayment for an outstanding $10 million in unpaid loans from the Cold War when it provided Kim Il-sung with machinery and equipment. Pyongyang responded that it would provide four hundred tons of “heavenly ginseng root” worth some $500,000. Since annual consumption of the root in the country was barely two tons, this would have kept Czechs well-stocked with ginseng—which, among its many reported benefits, boasts of enhancing sexual vitality—for two hundred years. As unusual secondary market has emerged for North Korean debt that a few courageous investors have dared to enter. It sells DPRK debt paper at about 6 cents on the dollar, based on the bet not that Pyongyang would ever repay but that under a future unification scenario, South Korea would want to reestablish North Korean creditworthiness as it worked to gradually reintegrate the two systems. If Seoul were to take on this debt, it could repay it all, speculators hope, with only one week’s addition to its foreign exchange reserves. Even if Seoul were to pay off only a portion of the debt, speculators could make six to seven times what they have paid for North Korean paper.

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North Korea Boasts Economic Construction Enabled as a Nuclear State

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2013-4-11

Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the Workers’ Party declared that North Korea has secured its position as a nuclear state, advancing the nation to concentrate on the economic construction, in an editorial last Friday.

This can be interpreted as North Korea’s intent to place more emphasis on investments towards economic development now that it has “made advancement in nuclear weapons capabilities to respond to any threats from the United States and South Korea.”

The editorial stated, “The tremendous mental and material potentials provided by the great Generalissimos Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, the socialist system of Juche based on collectivism and rich experience made in the effort to build an economic power are precious assets for making a great leaping progress in economic construction.”

This is in line with last month’s plenary meeting of the WPK Central Committee that reiterated the importance of parallel policy of economic construction and nuclear power to compete against the United States.

At the meeting, parallel policy of economy and defense were acclaimed to be superior in its war deterrence and defense capabilities without increasing the defense budget to provide support for economic construction and improve the lives of the people. In addition, agricultural and light industries were named as key sectors and called for improvements in the production of everyday goods for the people and reach the grain production target for this year.

On the other hand, Finance minister Choe Kwang Jin reported at the meeting of the Supreme People’s Assembly on April 1 that 44.8 percent of the national budget was allocated for economic development and improvement of its citizen’s lives.

In addition, the news reported that 38.9 percent of the total expenditures were shifted to social cultural and people policies to implement free compulsory education, healthcare, social insurance and social security systems and secure the development of arts, literature and sports.

The minister added that the rest of the budget was allocated for national defense but no specific amount of defense budget was disclosed.

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KPA asset data

Friday, March 29th, 2013

KPA-data-2013

In the kerfuffle that followed James’ NK News post about the North Korean targeting Austin, TX, Yonhap reports on KPA asset data that was also on display in the official KCNA photos:

Media coverage of an emergency military meeting convened by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Friday shows an overview of its major weapons system, giving a rare glimpse of the isolated communist country’s armed forces.

The list shows that North Korea has 40 submarines, 13 landing ships, six minesweepers, 27 support vessels and 1,852 aircrafts [sic], with some of the numbers covered by senior officials.

Military officials in Seoul said the figure is similar to the defense ministry’s estimation of North Korea’s weapons system, though there are some differences.

According to the 2012 defense white paper, the North is estimated to have 70 submarines and midget subs, 260 landing ships, 30 mine sweepers, 30 support vessels, 820 fighter jets, 30 surveillance aircrafts, 330 parachute drop aircrafts and 170 training jets.

While there are some disparities between the list and Seoul’s assessment, the number of midget subs seems to have been excluded from the list disclosed in the photo, military officials said.

As Pyongyang has never disclosed its weapon system in the past, outside watchers speculate that the North Korean military has mistakenly disclosed the confidential information.

“It may have been leaked accidently,” said a senior military official, who asked to remain anonymous. “It could have been unveiled as the North hurriedly reported the emergency meeting.”

Others said the photo may be aimed at stoking tensions by showing that Kim is mulling ways to strike the U.S., considering the operational map that has several lines between the Korean Peninsula and the U.S. Its details were not recognizable in the photo.

The Washington Post has offered some additional data in a follow up article on 4-25-2013:

South Korea says North Korea has more than 13,000 artillery guns, and its long-range batteries are capable of hitting the capital Seoul, a city of more than 10 million people just 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the border.

“North Korea’s greatest advantage is that its artillery could initially deliver a heavy bombardment on the South Korean capital,” Mark Fitzpatrick, a former U.S. State Department official now with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said in an email.

South Korea’s defense minister estimates that 70 percent of North Korean artillery batteries along the border could be “neutralized” in five days if war broke out. But Sohn Yong-woo, a professor at the Graduate School of National Defense Strategy of Hannam University in South Korea, said that would be too late to prevent millions of civilian casualties and avert a disastrous blow to Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

Seoul estimates North Korea has about 200,000 special forces, and Pyongyang has used them before.

In 1968, 31 North Korean commandos stormed Seoul’s presidential Blue House in a failed assassination attempt against then-President Park Chung-hee. That same year, more than 120 North Korean commandos sneaked into eastern South Korea and killed some 20 South Korean civilians, soldiers and police officers.

In 1996, 26 North Korean agents infiltrated South Korea’s northeastern mountains after their submarine broke down, sparking a manhunt that left all but two of them dead, along with 13 South Korean soldiers and civilians.

North Korea has 70 submarines while South Korea has 10, according to Seoul’s Defense Ministry. The most menacing threats from the North’s navy are small submarines that would deposit commando raiders along the South Korean coast, said John Pike, head of the Globalsecurity.org think tank.

North Korea also has 820 warplanes, more than South Korea, though Seoul is backed up by American air power. The South says most of the North’s aircraft are obsolete. North Korea also suffers chronic fuel shortages that have forced its air force to cut sorties, experts say.

“North Korea would not be able to prosecute a full-fledged war for very long,” Fitzpatrick said. “Its biggest problem is that North Korea would quickly lose control of the skies because of the vastly superior (South Korean) and U.S. air forces. The reported number of North Korean aircraft is meaningless, because many of them cannot fly, and North Korean pilots have little training in the air.”

Pyongyang is believed to have enough weaponized plutonium for four to eight nuclear bombs, according to Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear expert with Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation.

But he doubts Pyongyang has mastered the technology to tip a missile with a nuclear warhead. “I don’t believe North Korea has the capacity to attack the United States with nuclear weapons mounted on missiles and won’t for many years,” he said on the website of Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies this month.

orth Korea denies it runs any chemical and biological weapons programs. South Korea claims that Pyongyang has up to 5,000 tons of chemical weapons.

The IISS says that although the figures are “highly speculative,” the North probably does possess chemical and biological arms programs.

“Whatever the actual status of North Korea’s chemical and biological capabilities, the perception that it has, or likely has, chemical and biological weapons contributes to Pyongyang’s interest in creating uncertainties in Washington, Seoul and Tokyo and raises the stakes to deter or intimidate potential enemies,” it said on its website. North Korea is not a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention, but it has acceded to the non-binding Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.

Read the full stories here:
N. Korea’s photo offers glimpse of major weapons
Yonhap
Kim Eun-jung
2013-3-29

A look at the strengths and weaknesses of North Korea’s military
Washington Post (Associated Press)
2013-4-25

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KPA senior staff paid with debit cards

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

According to RFA:

North Korea’s regime is distributing special monthly payments in U.S. currency via a cash card system to high-ranking military officers in a bid to maintain loyalty, according to a source inside the country.

The payments can be spent at stores and restaurants equipped with card readers which accept foreign currency, the source told RFA’s Korean Service Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Since last year, North Korean generals in the military have been receiving a U.S. dollar cash cards every month,” said the source, who claims to have wide knowledge of the North Korean military.

“This is Kim Jong Un’s new instruction to guarantee a good lifestyle for the generals,” he said, referring to the country’s young “Supreme Leader” who took power after his father Kim Jong Il’s death in December 2011.

According to the source, four-star generals in the North Korean military receive around U.S. $1,200 each month on their cards, while three-star generals get U.S. $1,000 and two-star generals make U.S. $700. These payments are on top of their monthly salaries.

The special payments drawn by the generals dwarf the average government worker’s monthly salary of about 2,000 to 6,000 won (U.S. $0.70 to $2 based on prevailing market rates).

“The amount of cash on the card depends on the person’s level in the military,” the source said.

“When you have spent all of the cash, the card gets recharged again the following month. I’m not sure whether the provider is ‘Office 39’ of the Workers’ Party or the General Logistics Bureau.”

Office 39 of the ruling Workers Party is believed to maintain a foreign currency slush fund, while the General Logistics Bureau controls logistics, support, and procurement activities for the massive North Korean military.

The source said that recipients of the cash card are not limited to generals, but also include other high-level officers from a unit that directs infiltration activities by North Korean military agents in South Korea and another unit that is in charge of “electronic combat” in the General Reconnaissance Bureau.

“A colonel in the General Reconnaissance Bureau is able to spend up to U.S. $400 a month on the card,” the source said.

“A high-ranking military officer who is not a general can receive U.S. currency on a card if he is in charge of an important duty.”

There are a number of stores and restaurants where recipients can spend their cash in the capital Pyongyang, the source said.

Generals can also use their cards at guesthouses in seaside resort cities like Cheongjin in North Hamgyong province and Hamheung in South Hamgyong province, which only cater to officers of their rank.

For their convenience, card readers have been set up at places where foreign currency is traded, he said.

I have previously posted on the DPRK’s debit card system here, here, and here.

There are a number of reasons why this makes a particularly effective control tool.  To begin with, the military senior staff are dependent on the party to receive their elite consumer goods.  Additionally, these money balances cannot be directly spent in the markets or easily transferred to third parties.  Finally, in theory, all purchases can be audited. FECs (FOreign Excahnge Certificates) on speed.

Read the full story here:
North Korean Generals Get Cash Cards for Loyalty
RFA
2013-2-21

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Third nuclear test…

Monday, February 11th, 2013

UPDATE 25 (2013-3-31): The Washington Post reports on the unresolved question of whether the DPRK tested a plutonium or uranium nuclear device:

In the days following the detonation, U.S. and South Korean sensors failed to detect even a trace of the usual radioactive gases in any of the 120 monitoring stations along the border and downwind from the test site, the officials said. A Japanese aircraft recorded a brief spike of one radioactive isotope, xenon-133, but it was seen as inconclusive, the analysts said. Xenon-133 is released during nuclear weapons tests but also given off by nuclear power plants.

The second analyst familiar with the data said it appeared that North Korea “went to some length to try to contain releases. One possible reason to try to contain releases is secrecy, so we don’t know very much about their nuclear testing.”

The second analyst added that North Korea also appears to be worried about the reaction from China, its most important ally, in the event that radioactivity drifts across the border and causes panic among residents.

Officials and analysts said North Korea’s second nuclear test, which occurred in 2009, also left no detectable traces. Some experts pointed out that finding evidence of a nuclear blast is often a matter of luck because of the dependence on air currents and geological features at the test site. Still, it would not be surprising for North Korea to take extra steps to prevent outsiders from gaining insights into its nuclear capability, said a third U.S. official with access to classified data on the tests.

“Any country conducting a nuclear test works hard to contain it,” the official said.

U.S. intelligence agencies had positioned special aircraft in the region in hopes of picking up two or more types of radioactive isotopes from the blast. Comparing ratios of isotopes can help determine the material used in the device.

Seismology readings confirmed that the explosion occurred under a mountain near North Korea’s border with China. The readings indicated it was roughly as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Statements released by U.S. intelligence agencies have described the Feb. 12 event as a “probable” nuclear test.

North Korea’s state-run news agencies said the country had “diversified” its nuclear stockpile with the new test. The declaration underscored concerns that the North had mastered a design that uses the country’s ample supply of uranium. North Korea’s plutonium stockpile consists of only a few dozen pounds of the gray metal, enough to build a handful of bombs. But recent visits to North Korea by U.S. nuclear experts confirmed that Pyongyang operates at least one uranium-enrichment factory, described by visitors as large, sophisticated and fully operational.

UPDATE 24 (2013-3-7): UNSC passes 2094.

UPDATE 23 (2013-2-26): Jeffrey Lewis in 38 North, “Frienemies: The North’s Nuclear Test Was Bad Enough, The South Shouldn’t Make It Worse

UPDATE 22 (2013-2-23): Yonhap reports on the treatment of those involved in the test:

More than 11,000 North Koreans have been cited for their contribution to the country’s nuclear test earlier this month, the country’s media said Saturday.

North Korea carried out its third nuclear test on Feb. 12, drawing strong international condemnation. The U.N. Security Council is currently working out countermeasures to penalize the communist country.

The North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a report that a total of 11,592 scientists, technicians, workers and officials have received state decorations for their roles in the test.

The report, monitored in Seoul, gave no further details, including the identify of any awardees.

The English-language report also said that “100 were awarded the title of Hero of the DPRK (North Korea) with a gold star medal and Order of National Flag First Class.”

Following its December long-range rocket launch, North Korea had earlier honored a total of 101 scientists and engineers with the Hero of the DPRK titles, according to the KCNA.

An additional 5,700 were cited for their contribution to the launch, it said.

UPDATE 21 (2013-2-19): Russia has staked out its position on the imposition of further sanctions by the UNSC. According to Reuters:

“Any additional measures of pressure on North Korea should be aimed exclusively at the sphere of non-proliferation of nuclear arms and rocket launches,” Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told a news conference.

“We are against measures that would affect normal trade and economic relations with North Korea. We understand our Chinese colleagues have similar views.”

UPDATE 20 (2013-2-18): The EU has passed additional sanctions on the DPRK.   According to Reuters:

The sanctions expand those approved by the U.N. Security Council in January, adding measures preventing trading in North Korean government bonds, gold, precious metals, and diamonds, EU diplomats said.

“We have pushed for enhancing the sanctions. This is the answer to a nuclear programme which endangers not only the region but the whole security architecture worldwide,” Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said during a meeting with his EU counterparts in Brussels.

The new sanctions ban components that could be used in ballistic missiles such as “certain types of aluminum used in ballistic missile-related systems”.

North Korea was widely condemned last week after its third nuclear test since 2006, defying United Nations resolutions and putting the country closer to a workable long-range nuclear missile.

North Korean banks will also barred from opening new branches in the European Union and European banks would not be able to open new branches in the northeast Asian state. Diplomats could not say if North Korean banks had any branches in the EU.

According to US News:

The 27 EU finance ministers also demanded North Korea abstain from further tests and urged it to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty without delay. The statement came as the ministers met Monday in Brussels.

Their action brings the number of North Koreans subject to a travel ban and an asset freeze to 26, and the number of sanctioned companies to 33. The ministers also banned the export of components for ballistic missiles, such as certain types of aluminum, and prohibited trade in new public bonds from North Korea.

For more detailed information on the EU sanctions see here:

Council conclusions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), 3222nd Foreign Affairs Council meeting, Brussels, 18 February 2013 (PDF)

Council reinforces EU sanctions against orth Korea, Brussels, 18 February 2013, 6330/13, PRESSE 53 (PDF)

UPDATE 19 (2013-2-16): Today a couple of articles came out on the Chinese perspective.  Chinese tired of North Korea’s behavior. Chinese worried about radiation.

UPDATE 18 (2013-2-15): The US House passes a resolution condemning the blast. On February 25, the US Senate passed a resolution.

UPDATE 16 (2013-2-15): Jeffrey Lewis on yield estimates.

UPDATE 15 (2013-4-15): Friday Fun from Andy Borowitz!

UPDATE 14 (2013-4-15): Update on CTBTO findings related to the announced nuclear test by North Korea.

UPDATE 13 (2013-2-14): The Daily NK reports that the North Korean city of Hyesan experienced earth quake damage.

UPDATE 12 (2013-2-14): The Washington Post on sanctions.

UPDATE 11 (2013-2-14): The South Koreans report that they have been unable to detect isotopes in the air for analysis.  According to the BBC:

Finding certain isotopes – xenon gases in particular – would help experts determine whether a plutonium or uranium-based device was used.

But a well-contained test could yield no radioactive isotopes, experts say.

South Korean planes and ships were sent out immediately after the test to collect samples, as was a Japanese plane.

“Two days since the North’s nuclear test, the commission has completed analysing eight samples, but no radioactive isotopes have been discovered as of 15:00 Thursday,” the commission said.

No changes had been recorded at 122 unmanned radiation monitoring systems across the country, it added.

The story also reports on South Korean responses to the test.

The Economist also offers a roundup of the international relations.

UPDATE 10 (2013-2-13): Writing in 38 North, David Albright explores the technical advances made in the DPRK’s nuclear program. Here is the conclusion:

Regardless of North Korea’s progress prior to the February 12, 2013, test in miniaturizing its nuclear warheads, this underground nuclear test has likely advanced North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. North Korea could have improved the reliability of its designs and learned to further miniaturize its warheads for ballistic missile delivery. One important outstanding question is whether the test involved only plutonium or highly enriched uranium alone or in combination with plutonium.

ISIS assesses that North Korea has the capability to mount a warhead on the Nodong missile, although it recognizes the uncertainty in this estimate and that the warhead’s reliability cannot be ascertained. The test on February 12 could have, as North Korea stated, demonstrated this capability.

North Korea probably cannot deploy a warhead on an ICBM. However, with additional effort and time, North Korea will likely succeed in developing such a warhead too. More broadly, additional underground nuclear tests are bound to help North Korea produce a more sophisticated nuclear weapons arsenal that is both more deliverable and more deadly.

UPDATE 9 (2013-2-13): The Choson Ilbo on the cost of the DPRK’s nuclear program.

UPDATE 8 (2013-2-13): On the China – DPRK relationship

The Washington Post: Why China still supports North Korea, in six little words.

The New York Times publishes an article on the China – DPRK relationship.

Reuters published an article on the China – DPRK relationship citing different sets of data. Here are a couple of blurbs:

“The more the United States rebalances its forces in the Western Pacific, the more China has to give leeway in regulating its relationship with North Korea,” said Shen Dingli, a regional security expert at Shanghai’s Fudan University.

And North Korea is exploiting the current high levels of Sino-American mistrust.

and…

“China has always been worried that North Korea could collapse quickly,” said Zhu Feng, a professor of international studies at Peking University.

“It could be a refugee issue, or civil unrest, or military confrontations. That is why China has been hesitating,” he said.

In addition to providing undisclosed amounts of food and fuel to keep North Korea afloat since a mid-1990s famine killed more than a million North Koreans, Beijing has stepped up trade and investment.

China-North Korea trade rose an annual 24.7 percent to $3.1 billion in the first half of 2012, while the 2011 figure of $5.7 billion was a 62.4 percent gain over 2010. Beijing is also thought to take a generous – to Pyongyang – view of what constitutes “luxury goods” under a U.N. sanctions resolution banning exports of such items to North Korea.

UPDATE 7 (2013-2-12): Scott Snyder offers a summary of the event. Here is Jeffrey Lewis’ take on the explosion. Kim Jong-un gets photo with personnel.

UPDATE 6 (2013-2-12): Plutonium or uranium discussion begins.

The New York Times: North Korea’s Lesson: Nukes for Sale

Associate Press: NKorean Nuclear Test May Be Intelligence Windfall

UPDATE 5 (2013-2-12): The UNSC condemned the test. According to Reuters:

The non-binding statement was approved by all 15 council members.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said that Washington and its allies want the Security Council to pass a resolution that would “augment the sanctions regime” already in place due to Pyongyang’s 2006 and 2009 atomic tests.

The council statement was agreed at an emergency closed-door session convened by South Korea. Diplomats say negotiations on new sanctions could take weeks since China is likely to resist tough new measures for fear that new sanctions could lead to further retaliation by the North Korean leadership.

The UNSC statement can be found here.

A good summary of the situation on NPR.

Here is more in the Guardian.

UPDATE 4 (2013-3-12): And for some humor: The Onion headline, “World Surrenders To North Korea“. We should take bets as to which state-owned media source will pick this up as factual.

UPDATE 3 (2013-2-12): Institute for Science and International Security statement. Aidan Foster-Carter in the BBC.

US looks for leverage.

UPDATE 2 (2013-2-12): Well, it is the morning of the 12th on the east coast of the US.  Here are some of the news outlets reporting this am: Wall Street JournalWashington Post, New York Times, ABC (USA).

China, US, Japan condemn.

China, DPRK relations.

US Treasury Bonds unchanged.

Kaesong Industrial Zone unaffected.

38 North has lots of satellite imagery analysis.

Rodong Sinmun issued this statement.

KCNA has also published the following:

KCNA Report on Successful 3rd Underground Nuclear Test

Pyongyang, February 12 (KCNA) — The Korean Central News Agency released the following report on Tuesday:

The scientific field for national defence of the DPRK succeeded in the third underground nuclear test at the site for underground nuclear test in the northern part of the DPRK on Tuesday.

The test was carried out as part of practical measures of counteraction to defend the country’s security and sovereignty in the face of the ferocious hostile act of the U.S. which wantonly violated the DPRK’s legitimate right to launch satellite for peaceful purposes.

The test was conducted in a safe and perfect way on a high level with the use of a smaller and light A-bomb unlike the previous ones, yet with great explosive power. It was confirmed that the test did not give any adverse effect to the surrounding ecological environment.

The specific features of the function and explosive power of the A-bomb and all other measurements fully tallied with the values of the design, physically demonstrating the good performance of the DPRK’s nuclear deterrence that has become diversified.

The nuclear test will greatly encourage the army and people of the DPRK in their efforts to build a thriving nation with the same spirit and mettle as displayed in conquering space, and offer an important occasion in ensuring peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and the region.

And this…

Spokesman for DPRK Foreign Ministry Urges U.S. to Choose between Two Options

Pyongyang, February 12 (KCNA) — The DPRK Foreign Ministry released the following statement on Tuesday:

The DPRK’s third nuclear test is a resolute step for self-defence taken by it to cope with the U.S. hostile act against it.

Its successful launch of satellite Kwangmyongsong 3-2 in December last year was a peaceful one from A to Z which was conducted according to its plan for scientific and technological development for economic construction and the improvement of the standard of people’s living.

The world including hostile countries recognized its application satellite’s entry into orbit and greatly admired its development of space technology.

The U.S., however, again prodded the UN Security Council into cooking up a new “resolution on sanctions” against the DPRK, terming its satellite launch a violation of the UNSC’s “resolution”.

Encroaching upon the right to satellite launch is an unpardonable grave hostile act as it is an infringement on the DPRK’s sovereignty.

By origin, the DPRK had neither need nor plan to conduct a nuclear test.

The DPRK’s nuclear deterrence has already acquired the trustworthy capability strong enough to make a precision strike at bases for aggression and blow them up at a single blow no matter where they are on the earth.

It was the DPRK’s goal to focus efforts on economic construction and the improvement of the standard of people’s living by dint of nuclear deterrence for self-defence provided by the great Generalissimos Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il all their lives.

The DPRK exercised its maximum self-restraint when the U.S. fabricated the “presidential statement” over its satellite launch for peaceful purposes by abusing the UNSC in April last year.

But the DPRK’s patience reached its limit as the U.S. intensified such hostile act as implementing before anyone else the UNSC’s “resolution on sanctions”, far from apologizing for its renewed wanton violation of the DPRK’s right to satellite launch.

The main objective of the current nuclear test is to express the surging resentment of the army and people of the DPRK at the U.S. brigandish hostile act and demonstrate the will and capability of Songun Korea to defend the sovereignty of the country to the last.

The DPRK’s nuclear test is a just step for self-defence not contradictory to any international law.

The U.S. has long put the DPRK on the list of preemptive nuclear strike.

It is quite natural just measure for self-defence to react to the U.S. ever-increasing nuclear threat with nuclear deterrence.

The DPRK withdrew from the NPT after going through legitimate procedures and chose the way of having access to nuclear deterrence for self-defence to protect the supreme interests of the country.

There have been on the earth more than 2 000 nuclear tests and at least 9 000 satellite launches in the UN history spanning over 60 years but there has never been a UNSC resolution on banning any nuclear test or satellite launch.

It is the U.S. that has conducted more nuclear tests and launched more satellites than any others. It, however, cooked up the UNSC’s “resolution” banning only the DPRK’s nuclear test and satellite launch. This is the breach of international law and the height of double standards.

Had the UNSC been impartial even a bit, it would not have taken issue with a sovereign state’s exercise of the right to self-defence and its scientific and technological activities for peaceful purposes but with the U.S. policy for preemptive nuclear strike, a threat to global peace and security, to begin with.

The current nuclear test is the primary countermeasure taken by the DPRK in which it exercised its maximum self-restraint.

If the U.S. takes a hostile approach toward the DPRK to the last, rendering the situation complicated, it will be left with no option but to take the second and third stronger steps in succession.

The inspection of ships and maritime blockade touted by the hostile forces will be regarded as war actions and will invite the DPRK’s merciless retaliatory strikes at their strongholds.

The U.S., though belatedly, should choose between the two options: To respect the DPRK’s right to satellite launch and open a phase of detente and stability or to keep to its wrong road leading to the explosive situation by persistently pursuing its hostile policy toward the DPRK.

In case the U.S. chooses the road of conflict finally, the world will clearly see the army and people of the DPRK defend its dignity and sovereignty to the end through a do-or-die battle between justice and injustice, greet a great revolutionary event for national reunification and win a final victory.

UPDATE 1 (2013-2-11): English reports coming out. CNN, Wall Street Journal, Guardian, Donga Ilbo, Yonahp, Washington Post, New York Times

ORIGINAL POST (2013-2-11): The South Korean media is reporting an “earthquake” in the DPRK. This is suspected to be the third nuclear test. There is not much on this yet, but here are some links:

Yonhap

Choson Ilbo

USGS earthquake data

Daily NK

38 North published this piece a couple of days ago

Nothing on KCNA or Rodong Sinmun yet.

I am told the following:

They’re not 100% sure but they are saying “what else could cause the artificial earthquake?”

Lee Myung bak called emergency National Security Council meeting and escalated their military readiness posture from 3rd degree to 2nd degree.

Some news outlets are saying the NK government told the US and China yesterday that they are going to test.

On February 3, 2013, ISIS reported on the status of the DPRK’s nuclear test site.

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New(ish) KPA construction in South Hwanghae Province

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

The following post I reported on Radio Free Asia yesterday.

The Korean Peoples’ Army (KPA) is increasing its air and artillery capacity in South Hwanghae Province within the vicinity of the disputed West Sea maritime border and Yonphyong-do.

To begin with, in south-west Kangryong County near Sikyo-ri (강령군, 식여리), the DPRK has established four new KPA units each with dispersed revetments which could be used to protect deployed offensive capabilities such as artillery or short range rockets (MRLs)…maybe KN-08s? I will leave it to the professionals to figure out.

Sikyo-ri-KPA-units-1

According to available commercial satellite imagery, these units were built sometime between 2010-7-4 and 2012-6-20:

Sikyo-ri-2010 Sikyo-ri-2012

In the image above, just one of the four areas that has been constructed, we can see the creation of the new KPA unit as well as six revetments. These revetments lie 14-16 miles from Yonphyong-do.

To the east of this area, near Habupho, Kangryong County (하부포, 강령군), the Korean Peoples’ Army is building three lines of hardened artillery (HART) positions to protect the DPRK’s Multiple Rocket Launch (MRL) vehicles deployed to this area:

Kangryong-harts-2012

According to available satellite imagery, construction on these HARTs began in early 2011, and as of 2012-6-20, they appear to be nearly complete.

Kangryon-HARTs-2010-11-24 Kangryon-HARTs-2012-6-20

The line closest to Yongphyong-do, is 8.5 miles and contains three HARTs (Above). The second line is approximately 9 miles from Yonphyong-do and also contains three HARTs.  The third line is nearly 10 miles from Yonphyong-do and contains 6 HARTs.

The DPRK is also increasing capacities at it the closest fortified air force base in Kiam-ri, Thaethan County (기암리, 태탄군).

Thaethan-airfield-2011-6-13

Thaethan-airfield-2012-9-21

Pictured above are two satellite images of the Thaethan air force base in North Korea.  The top image is dated 2011-6-13. The lower image is dated 2012-9-21. The lower image has two highlight boxes.  In the box to the right, we can see the construction of 36 revetments which would be used to shield deployed artillery positions.In the box to the right, we can see an expansion of housing for use by the soldiers stationed at this base.

I have written previously about new KPA construction in the area here and here (photo). Joseph Bermudez also wrote about  a new hovercraft base in South Hwanghae.

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