While much of the North Korean conventional military consists of older, outdated and obsolete air and ground weapons systems, the country’s missile program and some of its naval assets may have much more potential to cause widespread damage and casualties to an adversary.
Pyongyang’s missile programs, as evidenced by last weekend’s massive military parade, appears to be advancing, and while some of the parade’s larger vehicles appear to be carrying ICBMs capable of targeting parts of Europe and even parts of the U.S. if they are operational, military analysts are becoming increasingly concerned about the country’s submarine force.
A couple of years ago some 50 of North Korea’s known submarines – 70 percent of the fleet – went missing amid tensions with South Korea. The missing subs sparked alarm in Western military and intelligence circles because some of them had, by then, been upgraded to fire ballistic missiles.
Intelligence services believe even more subs may have been upgraded since then or built from scratch, as indicated by recent tests of sub-launched ballistic missiles.
“North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats are not imaginary threats any longer, but they’re now becoming real threats,” South Korean President Park Geun-hye said of the launch. “Those threats are coming closer each moment.”
Now, as reported this week by the UK’s Daily Mail, it’s possible that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could be planning a missile strike – perhaps even a nuclear missile strike – against Japan or even the east coast of the United States, which is heavily populated and replete with U.S. naval assets.
National Security expert Bruce Klingner, in an interview with CNBC that was reported by the UK’s Express, said that Western military experts did not know where the North Korean subs went two years ago after disappearing.
“One would hope that we would keep very close tabs on those that could launch the submarine-launched ballistic missiles,” he said. “All of that is very worrisome because they may very well have a nuclear weapon someday.”
Being able to send submarines around the region or even halfway across the world (which would be difficult for North Korea but not impossible) gives leader Kim Jong-un additional options with which to strike an adversary.
The threat, for now though, is more pressing for South Korea.
“The problem with the SLBM (submarine-launched ballistic missile) is that it exposes South Korea’s flanks to attack,” said Klingner.
A North Korean sub attacked and sank a South Korean navy vessel in 2009, killing 46 sailors. The South did not retaliate and neither did the U.S., which some experts believe empowered Kim to continue his belligerence.
But the sub-launched nuclear threat is the most serious in the near-term, other experts said.
“Their conventional forces may not be very capable at the moment, but they have a lot of weapons of mass destruction,” Nicolas Eberstadt, an expert at the American Enterprise Institute, told Express. “Even if they would end up losing a war, they could kill and awful lot of people on our side.” (RELATED: North Korea: ‘Nuclear war could come at any moment’)
In addition to a nuclear weapons program, North Korea also retains a massive chemical weapons arsenal. In fact, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Ah-bee) said this week he believes North Korea could fire sarin gas-tipped ballistic missiles into Japan, the Daily Mail reported.
That is the same gas used to kill some 87 civilians in Syria earlier this month, prompting President Donald J. Trump to order a massive cruise missile strike against the airbase where the attack was reportedly launched by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“There is a possibility that North Korea already has a capability to deliver missiles with sarin as warheads,” Abe told the Japanese parliament.
J.D. Heyes is a senior writer for NaturalNews.com and NewsTarget.com, as well as editor of The National Sentinel.