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North Korea's new “tactical” weapon test highlights military modernization

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea's statement last week that it had tested an unidentified "ultramodern tactical weapon" highlighted its desire…

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea’s statement last week that it had tested an unidentified “ultramodern tactical weapon” highlighted its desire to upgrade its conventional arms and assure the military even when talks are ongoing to complete its nuclear program, said analyst.

PHILPHOTO: South Korean soldiers stand guard as construction equipment destroys a guard post in the Demilitarized Zone that shares the two Koreans in Cheorwon on November 1

5, 2018. Jung Yeon-je / Pool via Reuters / Filfoto

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un witnessed the test of a newly developed tactical weapon that could serve as a “steel wall”, reported state media on Friday without giving details about the weapon.

It was Kim’s first observance of a gun test this year and can complicate already displaced nuclear talks with the United States, although Washington and Seoul declined the development in an obvious effort not to track negotiations.

Experts say that the test was part of Kim’s initiative to move the support of conventional military power from an almost 1.3 million strong army to high-tech weapons.

“This is like the North Korean version of the military reform,” said Choi Kang, vice president of the Asan Institute for Political Studies in Seoul.

“If we need to find an underlying message to the outside world, it’s” Avoid underestimating us, we’re also modernizing. “”

New advanced weapons could be even more decisive if the country were to abandon at least part of its nuclear arena.

Although heavily sanctioned Pyongyang easily goes out in defense financing of Seoul and Washington, the North’s forward-looking troops, weapons and multi-launch missile systems (MLRS) represent a major threat to the Allies.

The North Korean military has nearly 5,500 MLRS, 4,300 tanks, 2,500 armored vehicles, 810 combat aircraft, 430 tanks and 70 submarines, according to a 2016 assessment by the South Department of Defense.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies said last week it has identified at least 13 undeclared missile bases in North Korea.

The Washington-based tanker has also said that Pyongyang has developed floaters for its 200,000 strong special forces as part of military modernization operations.

Kim has been pushing for modernization of production lines at ammunition plants and replacing aging weapons and technology since its inception by the end of 2011. “The defense industry should develop and manufacture powerful strategic weapons and military hardware of our style, perfect its Juche- oriented production structure and modernize its production lines on the basis of excellence and technology, “he said in his 2018 New Year, referring to the long-term principle of self-confidence.

The two Korahs agreed at the September Summit in Pyongyang to significantly reduce military tensions along the border and the north has begun to deactivate artillery deployed along the vulnerable western beach, the South Department of Defense said.

But the covenant did not include any removal of MLRS from forward-facing areas, where some long-distance weapons and rocket bombers still can reach Seoul.

South Korea’s news agency Yonhap reported that the newly-tried weapon was a new model of MLRS, referring to a named military source familiar with intelligence. Other experts suggested it could be a new short-distance missile.

Kim Dong-yub, a military expert at the Kyungnam University Institute of Far Eastern Studies in Seoul, said by equipping a modernized weapon, Kim could try to insure strong military generals and the public in North Korea who may be worried about a nuclear-free future.

“When Kim publicly declared the economy a new priority, saying that the North would be nuclear, many in the military who saw a decline in interest and support would be dubious and worried because he had not secured significant concessions as an end to the war declaration, “Kim,” said the professor.

“It might have been necessary for him to consolidate the nation, even though such field guidance would give a negative signal to the outside.”

Reporting of Hyonhee Shin; Editing Lincoln Feast

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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