North Korea is pouring “serious resources” into modernizing its naval forces, an effort that could eventually increase the threat to U.S. and South Korean vessels in the region, a U.S. think tank says.
Commercial satellite images show the North Koreans have been working aggressively since 2014 to upgrade training facilities, weapons systems, and special operations capabilities at the Munchon naval base on the country’s east coast, the U.S.-Korea Institute’s 38 North blog said Thursday.
It is part of leader Kim Jong Un’s strategy to improve North Korea’s conventional military capabilities and special operations forces in parallel with its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, experts said on a conference call to discuss the report.
“It appears that North Korea, at this point in time, is concentrating all of its naval sniper brigades on the east coast,” said Joseph Bermudez, who wrote the analysis for the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.
“Since Kim Jong Un has come to power, we see an upgrading across the board in North Korean military capabilities,” he said.
Workers also are developing new ship-support facilities that “remained relatively untouched” during the regime of Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, who died in 2011, the analysis said.
The upgrades could increase the Korean People’s Navy’s operational readiness and coastal defenses along with the ability of amphibious special forces to conduct operations against the South in wartime, it added.
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Further Detail: 38 North
Featured Image – This July satellite image provided by Airbus Defense and Space and 38 North shows Munchon Naval Base, North Korea. Four known naval squadrons are subordinate to KPA Navy Unit 155: a patrol squadron, a torpedo squadron, a fast-attack squadron and a fire-support squadron, according to 38 North, a U.S. think tank that monitors North Korean activities – ADS/38 North
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