North Korean army has its limitations

Bryan Harris & Robin Harding:
The country boasts the world’s fourth-largest standing army, with more than 1m troops as well as 7m reserves, and last week’s military exercise came as US President Donald Trump ramped up the pressure on Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programmes.

But officials and experts say the apparently formidable force is beset by an array of problems, from fuel shortages to ageing equipment, that would choke its capabilities in the event of prolonged conflict with the US and its allies.

“Once the Korean People’s Army starts or stumbles into a decisive conventional war, they will run out of something critical like fuel or bullets or parts in 30 days tops,” says one former US military officer with knowledge of North Korea. “Based on numbers from a corps-sized unit I saw, it may even be as early as two weeks.”

Takashi Furuyama, a retired Japanese intelligence officer and military attaché in Seoul, says a ramp-up in Pyongyang’s weapons programmes in recent years has left the army a diminished force.

“Given the diversion of resources to missiles and nuclear weaponry, I think their ability to fight a war may be a third or a quarter of what it was,” he says.
Pyongyang’s fuel dependency was thrown into stark relief last week when petrol prices in the isolated nation shot up more than 80 per cent amid talk that China — a vital ally and lifeline — could cut supply.

Its conventional military hardware — much of which was produced by the Soviet Union and China during the cold war — is also creaking with age.

According to a 2015 US defence department report: “The KPA has not acquired new fighter aircraft in decades, relies on older air defence systems, lacks ballistic missile defence, its Navy does not train for blue-water operations, and recently unveiled artillery systems include tractor-towed rocket launchers.”

Experts say Kim Jong Un’s regime knows it is unlikely to win any conventional conflict and has instead embarked on a strategy of deterrence to ensure its survival.
There is much more.

Fuel is a critical weakness.  Their air force has not been able to train for years because of fuel and parts shortages on what have become antique aircraft.  Without fuel they have a limited ability to make a mechanized assault on South Korea, and if they do I am sure one of their first targets in the south will be fuel depots and gas stations.

Without an air force and air defense system, all of their stationary equipment will be vulnerable to air assault by the US which would include bombs that can penetrate their cave systems.

While North Korea may have numerical superiority over South Korea, qualitative factors will probably give the South the edge.


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