Logistics: Let Them Eat Missile


August 13, 2016: Since Kim Jong Un came to power five years ago he has launched 33 ballistic missiles. Most (52 percent) were short range (under 1,000 kilometers) SCUD types. Some 19 percent were Rodongs with a range of up to 1,500 kilometers. Another 19 percent were Musudans with a range of up to 4,000 kilometers. Ten percent (three missiles) were the new KN-11 submarine launched ballistic missile. None of these went very far but it is believed that if the KN-11 could be fixed it should have a range of at least 2,000 kilometers. Kim Jong Un has launched twice as many ballistic missiles so far as his father, Kim Jong Il, did during the entire 18 years he was in power.

Kim Jong Un is believed to have increased production of new ballistic missiles; to fifty or more a year. He needs this to maintain his current inventory of at least a thousand ballistic missiles. Over 80 percent of these are SCUD types and all the longer range North Korean ballistic missiles use liquid fuel. This means they have a limited shelf life and must either be rebuilt or replaced every ten of twenty years. Otherwise they become unreliable and often more dangerous to their users than to the enemy.

South Korean missile experts have concluded that physical evidence indicates North Korea has not developed any new ballistic missile technology or even manufactured many new missile parts since 2012. The South Koreans are pretty certain of this because since 2012 they have been able to recover (at sea) components of North Korea multi-stage ballistic missiles and examine them. Most North Korean ballistic missile tests are into the sea and the North Koreans have not tried to stop the South Korean recovery (of missile debris) efforts. This would trigger a fight the South Koreans are ready for and one the North Koreans could not win. Currently North Korea is concentrating on building components to keep older missiles operational and new ones based on older designs.

Replacing those 33 missiles would cost North Korea about $30 million, which could be used to buy more grain from China and reduce the malnutrition that is increasingly evident. Hundreds of North Koreans still manage to escape from North Korea each year, despite increasing government efforts to block these “defectors.” Most remain in northeast China, where there is a large population of Chinese who are ethnic Koreans. Foreigners are able to see and even talk to some of these “defectors” and most report that the most compelling reason to risk their lives to get out is hunger. Few if the recent migrants appear well fed and many are visibly malnourished.


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