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North Korea Table of Contents

North Korea

Military Capability, Readiness, Training, and Recent Trends

Beginning in the late 1970s, North Korea began a major reorganization and modernization of its ground forces. Between 1984 and 1992, the army added about 1,000 tanks, over 2,500 APC/infantry fighting vehicles (IFV), and about 6,000 artillery tubes or rocket launchers. In 1992 North Korea had about twice the advantage in numbers of tanks and artillery, and a 1.5-to-1 advantage in personnel over its potential adversaries, the United States-Republic of Korea defenses to the south. Over 60 percent of the army was located within 100 kilometers of the DMZ in mid1993 .

North Korea conducts exercises at the division, corps, and Ministry of People's Armed Forces levels, but almost no information was available on their size, scope, frequency, or duration as of mid-1993. Province-level defensive training measures are more common than large-scale training exercises. Exercises involving units that consume scarce resources such as fuel, oil, and lubricants occur even less frequently, inhibiting the readiness of exploitation forces. Most training occurs at the regimental level or below, mainly at the company and platoon levels. There may be integration difficulties at division- and corps-level operations.

During the 1980s, doctrine and organization were revamped to increase the lethality, speed, and combat power of the attack. The shifting of the majority of the North Korean ground forces closer to the DMZ offers the potential for a more rapid advance. The reorganization of P'yongyang's exploitation forces in the 1980s suggests that initial attacking forces will be reinforced by heavier and more mobile units to exploit any breakthroughs.

The North Korean army was not uniformly successful in its 1980s efforts to modernize its forces in support of a high-speed offensive strategy; more needs to be done to update the army's mobility, artillery, and air defense elements. North Korea has increased its tank fleet, but incomplete information suggests that it remains based largely on dated Soviet technology with retrofitted indigenous improvements. Although the quality and quantity of mobile anti-aircraft gun systems remains unknown, there is no indication of any mobile surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems other than man-portable systems such as the SA-7 and SA14 or SA-16 (based on parade photographs) entering the inventory to augment North Korea's static air defense umbrella. Lack of SAM systems could be a major deficiency in the army's tactical air defense capability during mobile offensive operations. However, in artillery systems the army appears to have made the most of its limited technological base. It has increased the artillery force while maintaining relative quantitative and range superiorities over its potential southern adversary and improving force mobility. In mid-1993 the chances that North Korea will further modernize its forces appear limited. The technological level of P'yongyang's industrial base appears to ensure that, with the possible exception of narrow areas of special interest, built-in obsolescence will be unavoidable, regardless of how undesirable.

Data as of June 1993