September 11, 2006: American analysts believe North Korea has been, and continues to be, the main supplier of ballistic missile technology to Iran. The U.S. has applied diplomatic and economic pressure on several countries, to encourage them not to buy missiles from North Korea.
September 10, 2006: South Korean military spending last year was, according to CIA analysis, $21 billion. This means South Korea is number eight in national defense spending worldwide. North Korea was estimated to be spending $5 billion a year. The U.S. has the largest defense budget, at $518 billion. China was second with $81 billion. The U.S. and China figures are higher than the official numbers because they include military related expenditures which are not normally included in the official defense budget. Note that, while the North Korean budget is much lower that South Korea's, the North Koreans spend a much higher proportion of their GDP (about 15 percent) on defense compared to the south (about three percent). The north also gets more for its money, as labor costs are much lower (as are living standards.) The north also has lower tech weapons, and uses them less frequently for training. This lowers costs considerably.
September 9, 2006: The U.S. is providing $200 million in upgrades and maintenance for South Koreans eight RC-800 electronic reconnaissance aircraft (these are actually two engine business jets reconfigured to perform recon missions.) This will improve the ability to track the use of northern electronic equipment along the DMZ.
September 1, 2006: U.S. military commanders are warning that South Korean public opinion is increasingly dismissing the threat of North Korean military power. While American and South Korean intelligence staffs constantly monitor North Korean military capabilities, and find the northerners still capable to trashing much of South Korea, the public is moving more towards a benign view of North Korea, it's intentions and military capabilities. So far, South Korean politicians have managed to cope with both of these realities. The South Korean military gets the money it needs to deal with the reality of the North Korean threat, while South Korean voters are told that some sort of peaceful deal can be worked out with the north.
August 30, 2006: Research with refugees from North Korea shows that sixty years of isolation (northerners are forbidden any contact with the south, including South Korean) radio and TV has led to two increasingly different dialects of Korean. Northern refugees find that they cannot understand about half of what South Koreans are talking about. If the north decided to invade again, this would cause problems with interrogating prisoners, or soldiers talking to civilians from the other half of the country.
Despite protests from South Korea, the U.S. is going ahead with more economic sanctions on North Korea. Noting the success of the recent sanctions on North Korean access to the international banking system, America is deliberately interfering, wherever possible, with North Korean access to foreign currency. This is hurting North Korea's ability to import (legally or otherwise) luxuries for its senior leaders, and high tech equipment for weapons programs. These attacks on access to foreign currency are believed to be the cause of North Korea's recent threat to test a nuclear weapon. Trying to negotiate with the northerners is an exasperating task, and even China is getting tired of all the twists and turns the North Koreans like to throw into the mix. Meanwhile, famine is increasing in the north. Aid groups believe that about a third of the children in the north are malnourished, and an even higher proportion of adults. The government up north uses the famine to improve its control of the population. Anyone who shows signs of rebellion, gets less food. This is usually applied to entire neighborhoods or villages. This form of control is needed, because more North Koreans are finding out about the rest of the world, and how screwed up North Korea is. Unrest over this is growing, and corruption in the government is increasing.