North Korean Military Will Deteriorate into a Louder but Empty Vessel

North Korea Condemns US for Arms Sales to Japan and South Korea, Vows to Intensify Military Deterrence

SEOULOn November 20, 2023, the Korean Central News Agency reported that North Korea declared its intention to “further accelerate the establishment of war deterrence capabilities” while condemning the United States. 

According to the report, an unnamed deputy director of the General Bureau of Equipment of the Ministry of Defense responded to questions from a Korean Central News Agency journalist regarding America’s increased sales of advanced weapons to South Korea and Japan.

The deputy director emphasized the need to address the unstable situation on the Korean Peninsula caused by “conspiratorial acts of military collusion and arms deals by the United States and its followers.” 

He criticized the arms sales as a “reckless act that heightens military tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia, bringing about the risk of a new arms race.”

He further warned that the unilateral military buildup by one party beyond defensive needs would only provoke responsive military strengthening measures from others, stating, “The more profits the United States gains from indiscriminate weapon sales, the higher the cost they may have to pay for the security crisis.”

The U.S. government recently made a provisional decision to sell F-35 stealth fighters, SM-6 ship-to-air missiles, and AIM-9X “Sidewinder” air-to-air missiles to South Korea, and Tomahawk cruise missiles to Japan through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) process.

In response to the North Korean Ministry of Defense’s earlier statement on November 16, which opposed the South Korea-U.S. Security Consultative Meeting (SCM), the focus on U.S. arms sales is interpreted as an attempt to build a pretext for provocations such as military reconnaissance satellites and missile launches.

Perspective of a former North Korean soldier

Regarding the remarks of the Deputy Director of the General Bureau of Equipment of the Ministry of Defense of North Korea, this writer interviewed former North Korean soldier Kang Sung-kook, who defected and eventually entered South Korea at the end of 2023.

Kang spoke about his military service in North Korea, speculating that as Kim Jong-un becomes more tense about the escalating arms race, the North Korean military would feel increasingly cornered.

He also mentioned widespread corrupt practices within the North Korean military, where selling military supplies for personal gain and promotion is a “tradition” that still prevails. 

He recalled an instance during his military service when he secretly siphoned oil from the fuel tank of an aircraft and sold it for money he could use as bribes.

He hoped to gain favor with those in authority so he could ultimately become a member of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

Kang predicted that as Kim Jong-un deploys new military equipment, associated corrupt practices will increase, and the North Korean military will deteriorate into a louder but empty vessel.

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