North Korea’s new ‘tactical’ weapon test highlights military modernization

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea’s claim a couple weeks ago it had tested an unidentified “ultramodern tactical weapon” highlighted its need to upgrade its conventional arms and reassure its military all the while talks they are under approach to end its nuclear program, analysts said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un witnessed examination of any newly developed tactical weapon that will function as a “steel wall”, state media reported on Friday, without giving details of the weapon.

It was Kim’s first observation associated with a weapons test at the moment and could complicate already stalled nuclear talks when using the United States, although Washington and Seoul downplayed the ‘development’ within the apparent effort to not ever derail negotiations.

Experts repeat the test was an important part of Kim’s initiative to shift the mainstay from the conventional military power with a nearly 1.3 million-strong army to high-tech weapons.

“This is certainly kind of such as North Korean form of military reform,” said Choi Kang, v . p . in the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul.

“When we must find a message to the outside world, it’s ‘Don’t underestimate us, we’re modernizing too.’”

New advanced weapons may be substantially more crucial if your country would abandon at the very least a few of its nuclear arsenal.

Although heavily-sanctioned Pyongyang is readily acknowledged as outspent in defense funding by Seoul and Washington, the North’s forward-deployed troops, guns and multiple-launch artillery rocket systems (MLRS) pose a big threat to the allies.

The North Korean military has nearly 5,500 MLRS, 4,300 tanks, 2,500 armored vehicles, 810 fighter jets, 430 combatant vessels and 70 submarines, in line with a 2016 assessment from the South’s defense ministry.

The Centre for Strategic and International Studies said a week ago it’s identified at the least 13 undeclared missile bases inside North Korea.

The Washington-based think tank additionally said Pyongyang is developing hovercraft units for the 200,000-strong special forces during their military modernization drive.

Kim continues to be pushing to modernize production lines at munitions factories and replace aging weapons and technology since he took power at the end of 2011.

“The defense industry should develop and manufacture powerful strategic weapons and military hardware individuals style, perfect its Juche-oriented production structure and modernize its production lines on such basis as cutting-edge science,” he explained in their 2018 Year speech, referring to the long-held principle of self-reliance.

The two Koreas agreed throughout their September summit in Pyongyang to significantly reduce military tensions along the border, as well as North has started deactivating artillery deployed over the skirmish-prone western shore, Seoul’s defense ministry said.

But the pact could not include any removing of MLRS from forward-deployed areas, where some long-range guns and rocket launchers can nevertheless reach Seoul.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported the newly tested weapon was a new kind of MLRS, citing an unnamed military source knowledgeable about intelligence. Other experts suggested it could be a fresh, short-range missile.

Kim Dong-yub, a military expert at Kyungnam University’s Institute of Southern Studies in Seoul, said by touting a modernized weapon, Kim could look reassure hard-line military generals and also the public in North Korea who could be concerned with a nuclear-free future.

“With Kim having publicly declared the economy a new priority and saying its northern border would denuclearise, many inside military who saw a decline in interest and support could possibly be doubtful and anxious since he hasn’t already secured significant concessions similar to an end-of-war declaration,” Kim, the professor said.

“It could actually are actually required in him to consolidate america while such a field guidance hands a damaging signal facing outward.”

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

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