North Korea’s Nuclear and Missile Programs

Return to main North Korea index page 
Return to ISSA main page

November 19, 2002

DPRK Acknowledges Possession of Nuclear Weapons, Confirming Consistent GIS/DFA Reporting. Possibility of Link to Saddam’s “Surprise Weapon”

Analysis. By GIS Staff. State-run radio in the DRPK (North Korea) on November 17, 2002, confirmed that the DPRK Armed Forces had nuclear weapons. Significantly, this confirms consistent intelligence from highly-reliable sources published regularly by the Defense & Foreign Affairs group — which includes this Service, the Global Information System (GIS) — since 1984. Significantly, both the Republic of Korea (ROK: South Korea) Government and the previous US Administration of then-Pres. William Clinton sought to deny the validity of the intelligence because recognition of it would have required a compensatory action on the part of the US and ROK governments.

GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs Senior Editor Yossef Bodansky provided the bulk of the reports, working with intelligence provided by North Korean defectors and other sources. Several key reports, dating from May 1994, follow this report, to give a measure of the timeline involved in the reporting on the DPRK nuclear program. Even by early 1994, it was known that the DPRK had 10 nuclear warheads of 50kt yield deployed on ballistic missiles, plus two additional 50kt devices suitable for vehicle or aircraft delivery. GIS sources believe that the number of warheads available to the DPRK would now be substantially higher, given the fact that it has had an additional eight years to work on the program.

As well, GIS sources believe that it is possible that the “surprise weapon” referred-to by Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein in his message to Arab leaders could well be a DPRK-supplied nuclear weapon.

[See Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, November 8, 2002: Iraqi War Planning and Strategy Show Detailed Preparations for a Geographically Wide and Multi-Layered Conflict. Saddam Delivers Ultimatum to Gulf Leaders; Hints at “Surprise Weapon”.]

In one of his 1994 reports for this Service, Yossef Bodansky noted: “In 1984, the DPRK began the construction of a major new military nuclear complex in the Yongbyon area built around a new reactor estimated at the 50-200mw range, and dedicated for weapons production. Construction was near completion in 1989 and the reactor was tentatively activated in 1992. The construction of auxiliary installations for this reactor was expected to be completed in 1994, in the aftermath of a crash program begun in 1993. Within two years after its full activation, now expected to take place in 1995 at the latest, this reactor alone will be producing enough plutonium for 10-12 weapons a year.”

There has been ongoing and overwhelming evidence from a number of quarters to verify DPRK possession of nuclear weapons. As Bodansky noted in the July 1994 report:

“In order to confirm the status of the North Korean military nuclear capabilities, a high level delegation of West European diplomats and experts based in Beijing visited the DPRK in the early winter of 1993. Returning from Pyongyang in mid-December 1993, the delegation reported that the DPRK had “several atomic bombs and the vehicles to launch them”. The delegation confirmed much of the data provided by defectors, including that North Korea “has built several kilo[ton]-size bombs”. On the basis of the DPRK’s verified plutonium production at Yongbyon alone, the delegation concluded that the DPRK already had “at least half a dozen bombs” to be delivered by a growing arsenal of ballistic missiles.”

Once again, on November 18, 2002, Associated Press (AP) reports indicated that “South Korean officials expressed doubt about the credibility of the report”. Indeed, it would have been surprising if the ROK officials had not attempted to blunt the impact of the news, given the heightened threat status which DPRK possession of fielded nuclear weapons implied for South Korea.

The timing of the DPRK release of the information was significant, and GIS analysts believe that it was designed to support Pyongyang’s key client states, Iraq and Iran, and, de facto, Libya. The announcement was intended to give validity to Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein’s claim that only Iraq was being singled-out for attack by the US for the possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) because it was a Muslim state. Such a move was intended to polarize US relations with the entire Muslim world and thereby deny the US and its Coalition partners access to support from Arab/Muslim states in the anticipated war against Iraq.

However, the principal reason for the US reluctance to act against the DPRK and its nuclear weapons has been the fact that Pyongyang has consistently threatened Japan with attack by nuclear weapons — delivered by DPRK NoDong or TaepoDong ballistic missiles — if it allowed the US access to Japanese basing in any attack against the DPRK. Given the lack of sufficient US basing in the Western Pacific, the US has had to take into account Japanese sensibilities and has attempted to find other ways of dealing with the DPRK Government.

Two explosions were reported late on November 18, 2002, 800 feet from Camp Zama, the headquarters for the US Army Japan and the 9th Theater Support Command near Tokyo, and a projectile launcher was found near the site. It is possible that this incident — initially attributed by Japanese police to “leftists” — could be linked to the ongoing DPRK “warnings” to Japan to avoid linkage with the US in the “war on terror” and Washington’s campaign against the so-called “axis of evil”, which included the DPRK, Iraq and Iran. 

The Pyongyang Government of Kim Jong-il also waited before releasing the confirmation of its military nuclear capability until it was clear that the US and other Western states would no longer supply oil to the DPRK, under the earlier arrangements which had been intended to wean the DPRK off its dependence on nuclear energy.

On November 17, 2002, Pyongyang Radio reported that North Korea “has come to have nuclear and other strong military weapons due to nuclear threats by US imperialists”. Until now, the DPRK had restricted its claims to the fact that it was “entitled to have nuclear weapons and more powerful weapons than that to protect its sovereignty from US threats”.

In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry on November 18, 2002, expressed serious concern over what it called “contradictory” statements from Pyongyang, noting: “Russia expects the friendly Korean leadership to strictly observe all North Korea’s regulations and obligations on the cornerstone Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which is a guarantee not only of global strategic stability but of peace and security on the Korean Peninsula..” 

North Korean officials admitted to visiting US officials in Pyongyang in October 2002 that the DPRK had a covert program to make nuclear weapons with enriched uranium. As a penalty, a US-led international consortium, called the Korean Energy Development Organization, in early November 2002 decided to cut off fuel oil shipments to North Korea beginning in December 2002.

There should have been no surprises on the DPRK nuclear weapons program. As noted in the GIS History section for the DPRK, and in the Defense & Foreign Affairs Handbook:

“On July 8, 1994, the DPRK announced the death of Pres. Kim Il-song due to a ‘sudden attack of illness’. For Pyongyang, this long-awaited event was the most important milestone in North Korean history since the foundation of the state. It seems that Kim Il-song died as a result of an accident, reportedly in the Integrated Command Post for Nuclear Warfare being completed at Mt. Chidang in Changsan-Dong, Sosong district, Pyongyang. Several officers and officials, including Vice Marshal Chu To-il, then the Commander of the Pyongyang troops, are believed to have been killed or injured in the accident. The death of Chu To-il, also attributed to a long illness, was announced on July 2, 1994. Several other funerals were reported in the Pyongyang area at the time.”

Defense & Foreign Affairs sources had reported nuclear weapons development work being undertaken as early as 1992.

This Service has always also noted the link the DPRK delivery systems. The Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily of October 26, 1999, in a report entitled ROK Denies Report of DPRK NoDong-1 Deployment, noted:

The Republic of Korea's (ROK)  Defense Ministry denied on October 25, 1999, reports that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea DPRK) had deployed four medium-range missile units which could strikes targets in Japan and the ROK.

ROK Defense Ministry spokesman said that he did not believe the report was accurate because of the reported position of the system. One system was reported to have been deployed at Tugol, which is about 60km from the ROK border. The Ministry spokesperson said that it would make little sense to deploy a missile system with a 1,300km range so close to the border with the ROK. Military doctrine is for weapons to be deployed as far from hostile forces as possible, while keeping the weapon within range to strike enemy targets, in order to reduce the chances of the system being destroyed.

The ROK Defense Ministry comments were in response to an October 25, 1999,  report in the Chosun Ilbo, an ROK newspaper. The report indicated that the DPRK had recently deployed NoDong-1 missiles in two strategic locations in four battalion groups. Quoting an unidentified ROK Government official, the newspaper said the DPRK positioned one battalion at Sinori, north of its capital Pyongyang and three other battalions at Tugol near the western border with the ROK. "One battalion was said to have nine launchers for NoDong-1 missiles," Chosun Ilbo quoted the official as saying.

The strategic, as well as the physical and commercial, linkages between the DPRK, Iraq and Iran — as well as Libya — on nuclear weapons and strategic delivery systems has now become clear and of sufficient consistency as to imply a degree of coordinated political activity. 

1994 Report 1: The North Korean Nuclear Arsenal is Deployed, Despite Face-Saving Agreements With the US

The following report appeared in the July 31, 1994, edition of Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy.

North Korea and the United States were preparing, in August [1994], to sign a deal which would “resolve their differences” over the DPRK’s military nuclear development. But the deal is merely intended to save face for all concerned. North Korea — the DPRK — already has deployed a substantial number of nuclear weapons and the US is not prepared to confront the matter.

By Yossef Bodansky, Senior Editor, GIS. The US And the DPRK were due to agree in August [1994] the outline of a wide-ranging accord to resolve their differences on the North Korean nuclear program. The essence of the deal is that the US will provide North Korea with a light-water reactor, “make arrangements for interim energy alternatives” for the DPRK (euphemism for the supply of oil), and work “to reduce barriers to trade and investment” so as to generally improve the North Korean economy. In return, “upon receipt of US assurances” that the above conditions are being implemented, the DPRK “will freeze construction” of its bigger graphite-cooled reactors, “seal the Radiochemical Laboratory” (its main processing facilities), “forego” reprocessing of the 4,000 rods (even though the IAEA still will not have access to them), and accept a yet-to-be-determined regime of IAEA inspections.

The overriding principle of this new Geneva accord is that North Korea is merely freezing some of its nuclear activities in return for a huge incentive package. None of the DPRK’s nuclear installations would be destroyed, while the US and its allies would be providing another reactor as well as resolving many of the DPRK’s endemic energy supply and economic problems. Washington seems to believe that once these measures are adopted, Pyongyang would no longer be able to procure nuclear weapons, save for the “one or two” devices it already has.

Little could be further from reality.

North Korea — the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) — already has close to 10 operational nuclear warheads for its ballistic missiles, and two nuclear devices that can be carried by truck or transport aircraft. All the weapons are 50kt nuclear warheads, each weighing around 500kg (1,100lb.). All the DPRK’s ballistic missiles can carry nuclear warheads.

The DPRK already has over 120 NoDong-1s, and a few hundred NK-Scud-Bs and NK-Scud-Cs, in operational service.

In late March 1993, the DPRK completed the development of the upgraded NoDong-1 “which may be equipped with nuclear warhead” with a 1,300km range. The DPRK is also accelerating the development of a new SSM, the NoDong-2, estimated to have a range of 1,500-2,000km. The test launching of the first NoDong-2 prototypes is expected in 1994-95 and, barring a major setback, the NoDong-2 will become operational in 1996-97. Therefore, the NoDong-2 can be pressed into operational service under extreme conditions. The DPRK, along with the PRC and Iran, is also developing a new generation of ballistic missiles far  more accurate than the NoDong family and optimized for nuclear warheads.

The SSMs, the TaepoDong-1 and the TaepoDong-2, will have ranges of 2,000 and 3,500km respectively. A modified TaepoDong-2 will be able to reach a range of 9,600km. More advanced nuclear-tipped SSMs, such as the NoDong-X, are also near entry into operational service.

The proposed closing down of the DPRK's 5mw reactor will have no impact whatsoever on the DPRK's current and near-term operational nuclear capabilities. This discrepancy between the White House's assessment and reality reflects the two fundamental approaches to intelligence analysis. The first relies primarily on finding and verification by technical means: from space-based collection systems to a variety of sensors and measuring systems of such international bodies as the IAEA. The second relies primarily on human sources: defectors, spies, intelligence officers and other resources.

At the crux of the DPRK's nuclear "problem" is the amount of plutonium extracted from the 5mw reactor in Yongbyon. Washington insists that there is no verifiable evidence that plutonium was extracted but once in 1989. Therefore, the DPRK could not have the plutonium needed for nuclear weapons. This approach has already failed two major tests.

Since June 1992, activities intensified in the DPRK's primary nuclear weapons site at Yongbyon, an elaborate underground complex called Building 500. Pyongyang argued that the building was merely a nuclear waste storage site. In early 1993, the IAEA inspectors requested access to Building 500 to confirm what it was. The DPRK not only refused, but announced its withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The Korean People's Army (KPA) quickly established 40 military encampments, three airbases, a major ammunition depot, and deployed some 300 heavy anti-aircraft guns around the entire Yongbyon complex. The IAEA's continued insistence on inspecting Building 500 resulted in the DPRK's declaring the Semi-War State, ordering mobilization of its armed forces. Presumably, North Korea would not have risked war over a dump site.

In early May 1994, the DPRK violated the remnants of its agreement with the IAEA. Ignoring warnings from the US and the UN, including explicit threats of sanctions, the DPRK cancelled the IAEA inspections. The North Koreans quickly removed 4,000 fuel rods from the 5mw reactor in Yongbyon, making it impossible to measure if any plutonium had ever been removed. Measuring the extent of a possible removal of plutonium from these fuel rods is the key to verifying through technical means the size of the North Korean nuclear arsenal.

By theoretical calculations alone, the 5mw reactor could have produced since 1990 enough plutonium for four to six nuclear weapons. Defectors insist that plutonium had been extracted clandestinely over the years and used for the production of nuclear warheads. Therefore, only sampling and measurements of the fuel rods undertaken by IAEA inspectors on site in Yongbyon would have been able to either confirm or dispel the defectors' accounts about the size of the North Korean military nuclear program. Pyongyang has repeatedly denied having any military nuclear program, let alone weapons. Therefore, the DPRK's adamant refusal to allow any inspection and measurement of the rods to the point of escalating the crisis to the verge of UN sanctions and possible US military action cannot but indicate that the DPRK has something to hide.

An explanation can be found in the persistent flow of information from North Korean defectors, as well as sources from Russia, the PRC, and other countries, about all aspects of the development of nuclear weapons in Yongbyon.

The DPRK secretly and incrementally removed plutonium from the 5mw reactor. Kim Dai-Ho, a former official at a North Korean reprocessing plant in Yongbyon who defected in May 1994, reported that back in 1988 the DPRK had secretly removed 12 kg [26.4 lb] of plutonium from this reactor. This fuel was used to produce the first two nuclear devices completed in 1990-1. It was recently learned that the DPRK suspended the reactor operation annually since 1989. Stoppages were for 71 days in 1989, 30-odd days in 1990, and 50-odd days in 1991. In these three years alone, the DPRK could have extracted additional 22-27kg (48.4-59.4lb) plutonium, enough for three to five weapons. Comparable quantities of plutonium were since then removed from the reactor incrementally and used in the production of the DPRK's growing arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Furthermore, the DPRK succeeded to acquire 56kg (123.2lb) of plutonium from the CIS in early 1992, sufficient for the production of 10 additional warheads. The first of these was completed in the Spring of 1993.

This data fits closely with a growing volume of information on the DPRK's nuclear arsenal. There is close agreement between the reports on the number of weapons and the reported extraction of plutonium.

A KGB document of February 22, 1990, stated that the DPRK already had nuclear weapons and the "development of the first atomic explosive device [had] been completed" in Yongbyon. The KGB added that Kim Jong-Il "personally controls" the DPRK's military nuclear program which is aimed at "achieving military superiority over South Korea" as well as realizing "the prestigious aim of becoming one of the states possessing such weapons."

Yi Chung-Kuk, a Sergeant in a KPA chemical warfare unit who defected in mid-March 1994, disclosed that he had "heard on several occasions beginning in 1991 from high-ranking military cadres and his senior officers that North Korea has already completed nuclear weapons development." Ko Yong-Hwan, a high level official who defected in the Autumn of 1991, reported that Pyongyang expected to have a nuclear arsenal by 1993, at which point the DPRK would be able to produce three to five "small nuclear bombs" a year. Subsequent improvements raised the annual production rates to about five warheads from plutonium extracted at Yongbyon and another two to three warheads from the plutonium acquired from the CIS.

On the basis of a great volume of data from multiple sources, it was possible to conclude in mid-1993 that the DPRK already had about six nuclear weapons in operational status. Four of them were 50kt warheads for the ballistic missiles. At the very least, the DPRK had already "virtually completed" these six nuclear weapons and they were stored at "laboratory nuclear devices" status. In early 1994 there were specific reports that these warheads were being readied for war.

In order to confirm the status of the North Korean military nuclear capabilities, a high level delegation of West European diplomats and experts based in Beijing visited the DPRK in the early winter of 1993. Returning from Pyongyang in mid-December 1993, the delegation reported that the DPRK had “several atomic bombs and the vehicles to launch them”. The delegation confirmed much of the data provided by defectors, including that North Korea “has built several kilo[ton]-size bombs”. On the basis of the DPRK’s verified plutonium production at Yongbyon alone, the delegation concluded that the DPRK already had “at least half a dozen bombs” to be delivered by a growing arsenal of ballistic missiles.

The latest assessment of the magnitude of the North Korean nuclear arsenal was provided by Kang Myong-To, the son-in-law of Kang Song-San, the DPRK's prime minister, who defected in May 1994. He reported that the DPRK "already [possessed] five nuclear warheads" in October 1993, and would have about 10 warheads by the end of 1994. The delivery platform is "long-range missiles". Kang Myong-To stressed that he had learned this information from "a responsible official of the State Security Department, who is in charge of security of the nuclear facilities in Yongbyon".

Thus, there is ample evidence that the DPRK currently has at least seven or eight nuclear warheads (as well as two devices) and that by the end of the year will have more than 10 warheads. It is noteworthy that the available multiple-source data about the extraction of plutonium, weapon production rates, and the size of the North Korean nuclear arsenal closely fit.

With this in mind, the value of the IAEA inspections should be questioned. Back in February 1990, the KGB already stressed Pyongyang's "interest of concealing from world opinion and from the controlling international organizations the actual fact of the production of nuclear weapons in the DPRK".

In late January 1994, a highly informed Chinese official reported that he had "recently heard from a senior North Korean official that North Korea is hiding nuclear weapons in an underground warehouse in the mountains near Pyongyang and that any thorough inspection of North Korean nuclear facilities by the United States will fail to locate them". Yi Chung-Kuk also learned "from his senior officer that it will be of no use to inspect Yongbyon because nuclear weapons are being produced at another place."

It is known from other sources that the work on the warheads made from the plutonium acquired in the CIS is conducted away from Pyongyang. In the fall of 1993, a defector reported the existence of "a dreadful underground nuclear plant in the Chagang-Do province in the northern area" where the most sensitive weapon-related activities take place.

Indeed, high-level North Korean defectors have always questioned the validity of the negotiations with the US. Ko Yong-Hwan warned already in mid-1991 that as far as Pyongyang was concerned "negotiations for nuclear safeguards are only a delaying tactic". He explained that the highest levels in Pyongyang concluded in around 1985-86 that they "cannot cope with the situation with conventional (classic) weapons; therefore nuclear weapons must be developed . . . [as] the last means for preserving their political system".

Kang Myong-To has a similar explanation. "North Korea’s nuclear development is not intended as a bargaining chip as seen by the Western world, but for the maintenance of its system under the circumstances in which it is faced with economic difficulties and a situation following the collapse of Eastern Europe. . . . Therefore, I think that until at least 10 nuclear warheads are produced, Kim Jong-Il will continue to adopt delaying tactics."

Kang Myong-To stressed that the DPRK acquired its nuclear weapons "to secure an advantageous position in its talks with the United States and Japan. North Korea believes the United States would not be able to attack it then because of nuclear [weapons]". Therefore, he concluded, in no way would the DPRK give up its military nuclear capabilities, because Pyongyang "sees nuclear development as the only means to maintain Kim Jong-Il’s regime".

Pyongyang's commitment to acquire nuclear weapons has always had a direct and immediate impact on the KPA. According to KPA Special Forces (Spetsnaz) Cpt. Shin Chung-Chol, since 1980, the KPA officers at the Kim Il-Song Military Academy, the DPRK’s highest military institution, “attended a lecture on the ‘offensive by the army corps with nuclear attacks’ in the tactics course of the college”. Cpt. Shin stressed that “the lecture was given in anticipation of North Korea’s nuclear attacks against enemies”. In early 1994, he added that considering the emphasis put on nuclear warfare among the KPA's elite officers by the early 1980s, "there is no doubt that North Korea has already developed nuclear weapons".

Other former North Korean officers who defected recently portray a chilling scenario for the possible use of the DPRK’s nuclear warheads in case of a major crisis. They believe that Pyongyang will order a pre-emptive launch of nuclear strikes against a few select objectives in Japan. “As a pre-emptive strike, nuclear [weapons] would [be used to] attack US military bases in Japan and then launch air raids on Japan’s major military bases,” explained an officer who defected in 1993. According to another former KPA officer who defected in the fall of 1992, it is virtually common knowledge among the élite units of the KPA that their country has nuclear weapons and that “our missiles could destroy even Japan, the United States, or South Korea”.

More likely and no less complex is the potential introduction of a North Korean nuclear ultimatum in the context of a surprise non-nuclear invasion of South Korea. A threat from Pyongyang to hit Japan, including Tokyo, and perhaps Russia, Vladivostok for example, with nuclear weapons in case the United States decides to further intervene in the war is bound to attract attention in Washington. At the very least, deliberations in Washington on the appropriate reaction to the North Korean invasion and the new nuclear threats will take long enough for the KPA, by Pyongyang's own worst case calculations, to complete the encirclement of the Korean Peninsula. At this point, Pyongyang is convinced, the US will give up the war. A senior official at the South Korean Ministry of Defense concurs that Pyongyang’s strategy is “to initiate surprise attack on the South and occupy some territory and negotiate for the termination of war, or to deny US reinforcement by threatening to use nuclear weapons.”

Another disturbing aspect of the Geneva negotiations is the preoccupation with the 5mw reactor in Yongbyon. The DPRK has numerous other reactors and nuclear facilities the contribution of which to the military nuclear effort is far larger than that of the small old reactor in Yongbyon.

In September 1980, the DPRK began construction on a then 30mw gas cooled reactor, a configuration extremely efficient for producing plutonium. Most construction was completed in 1984, and the reactor was activated in February 1987. The US-educated Prof. Kyong Won Ha is one of the key scientists and engineers behind the 30-50mw reactor in Yongbyon and its configuration into a source of plutonium.

In 1984, the DPRK began the construction of a major new military nuclear complex in the Yongbyon area built around a new reactor estimated at the 50-200mw range, and dedicated for weapons production. Construction was near completion in 1989 and the reactor was tentatively activated in 1992. The construction of auxiliary installations for this reactor was expected to be completed in 1994, in the aftermath of a crash program begun in 1993. Within two years after its full activation, now expected to take place in 1995 at the latest, this reactor alone will be producing enough plutonium for 10-12 weapons a year.

As of late-1991, the DPRK began digging deep tunnels near Yongbyon to shield and conceal the key components of its military nuclear program. A new air defense system was deployed in November 1991, and above ground facilities are being hardened. Meanwhile, a prototype reprocessing facility was completed in 1987 and is producing some 15 kg [33 lb] of plutonium annually. The work on a reprocessing facility for nuclear fuels began around 1988 and it is expected to become operational around 1994. The clandestine plutonium factory for the nuclear weapons, which is called by the DPRK “radiological laboratory”, is a single story building constructed on top the main plutonium reprocessing facility that is now buried deep underground. Meanwhile, since mid 1993, the DPRK has doubled its capacity to produce plutonium by installing a second production line in the main reprocessing facility.

Moreover, the DPRK also built highly secret underground facilities in Pakchon. Since underground facilities are extremely difficult to reconstruct, the mere fact that the DPRK has committed itself to underground military nuclear facilities reflects self-confidence in its technological capabilities.

Meanwhile, since the early 1980s, the DPRK gained access to both Iranian Western-educated scientists and the Libyan clandestine procurement infrastructure for Western technology. Tehran and Tripoli convinced Pyongyang to significantly expand its military nuclear program even before the initial phase was complete. Consequently, in the mid-1980s, the DPRK had access to Western nuclear technology, mainly West German, through the strategic cooperation between the DPRK, Libya, Syria, and Iran. Indeed, Ko Yong-Hwan confirmed that the North Korean nuclear program utilized diversified technology from West European sources. Indeed, key components of the DPRK's new 50mw research reactor, built near the submarine base in Sinpo, are German-made. Like the Yongbyon complex, the Sinpo reactor is the center of a large scale underground complex. Simultaneously, in May 1989, the DPRK and the GDR signed a comprehensive agreement on the transfer of "substantial" amounts of German nuclear technology and nuclear weapons materials, including enriched uranium, to Pyongyang.

Meanwhile, the DPRK continues to expand its already large nuclear infrastructure. By late 1993, some 20 facilities related to nuclear development were identified and there are not yet fully confirmed reports about several other facilities. Telling is the ongoing construction of large scale reactors, such as the 200mw reactor in Taechon and the 635mw reactor in Simpo. Ostensibly built as commercial-purpose reactors, these are old-type graphite-moderated and gas cooled reactors that are relatively unsafe and their efficiency relatively low when compared to more modern technologies long used in the West. However, reactors of this design produce extremely large quantities of plutonium, the key ingredient in nuclear weapons, as a by-product of their activities even with natural, low-quality uranium. Thus, the reactor building program of the DPRK testifies to Pyongyang's commitment to markedly expand its nuclear weapons program in the very near future, for a few large reactors are expected to become "hot" in the next few years.

Completely disregarding the real magnitude of the North Korean military nuclear effort, the US-DPRK negotiations on nuclear issues were scheduled to resume in Geneva in early August 1994. They are still based on the premise that no North Korean extraction of plutonium from the 5mw reactor has been confirmed except for one case in 1989. The negotiations continue even though the DPRK stresses that it would not permit access to Building 500 or an IAEA examination of the fuel rods (even though all evidence of extraction had already been destroyed). Moreover, the DPRK informed the US that it will continue to expand its nuclear program and complete the 50mw and 200mw reactors in Yongbyon, until it gets a Russian-made modern light-water reactor and other economic incentives. The accord expected to be reached in Geneva in August changes none of these provisions.

The Geneva accord constitutes a profound change in US policy concerning the North Korean nuclear arsenal. Washington gave up on preventing the DPRK from becoming a nuclear power. Washington even no longer insists on verifying the extent of the North Korean arsenal through IAEA inspection. Instead, the US opted to appease and bribe North Korea with the hope that Pyongyang would freeze its nuclear build-up. Washington is buying time while maintaining the charade that the DPRK does not have nuclear weapons. Consequently, the US and its allies have settled into the do-nothing-for-now mode, merely postponing the hour of reckoning.

All that time, Washington is getting used to the fact, although without acknowledging it publicly, that the threat of North Korean nuclear blackmail is already pending.

Meanwhile, the economic crisis in North Korea continues to grow. Only drastic measures can reverse the imminent economic collapse. Currently, Pyongyang has two viable options: to attempt a regional nuclear extortion, demanding that the US, Japan and ROK rebuilds its economy, or to launch an all out effort at the realization of the sacred unification by force.

The Geneva accord seems to be an implicit surrender to Pyongyang's extortion. However, the North Korean economy is in such a dismal state, that the West cannot afford the investments required for a short term reversal, even at the price of a debilitating recession in the US and the Pacific Rim. The Geneva accord simply creates false expectations and pushes the hour for drastic measures further away.

Kang Myong-To relayed that, according to the above cited official of the State Security Department, Pyongyang's position is that “by 1994, if we are capable of possessing about 10 [nuclear weapons], we will be able to make it known to the international community, and to hold the North-US talks or South-North summit talks from a position of advantage”.

Left unclear is in what form will such announcement take place. Given the overall context of Pyongyang's acquisition of nuclear weapons, it is quite likely that the announcement will come as a nuclear ultimatum, perhaps during an invasion.

Moreover, even if the Geneva record is implemented, and even if there is no new Korean War in 1994, the North Korean nuclear threat to the US will only continue to rise. Most important, by the mid to late 1990s the DPRK will field the nuclear-tipped NoDong-X ICBM that, with a range of over 6,000 km, is capable of reaching the continental US. Considering the intensity of the development work, barring a major setback, early models of the NoDong-X may become operational as early as 1996-97. This fact alone will introduce a whole new dimension to the crisis in Korea. Hence, the looming specter of the new Korean War, with its nuclear component, remains with us for as long as Kim Jong-Il and his Administration remain in power in Pyongyang.

1994 Report 2: North Korea’s  Preparations for War; DPRK Intel., Special Forces Change

The following report appeared in the May 31, 1994, edition of Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy.

The following report appeared in the May 31, 1994, edition of Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy. It is reproduced here because it directly bears on the current DPRK nuclear weapons issue.

By Yossef Bodansky, Senior Editor, GIS. With tension growing on the Korean Peninsula, and a new Korean War possible, the DPRK (North Korean) leadership in Pyongyang has completed a major change in its intelligence and special forces system. It should be stressed that the North Koreans consider their intelligence and special forces apparatus to be a key to their ability to launch, conduct, and win any non-nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula. A senior official of the South Korean (ROK) Ministry of Defense perceives that Pyongyang's strategy is "to initiate a surprise attack on the south and occupy some territory and negotiate for the termination of war, or to deny US reinforcement by threatening to use nuclear weapons". Properly used, the DPRK's intelligence and special forces can facilitate the successful completion of such a lightening war. By April 1994, there was growing evidence that Pyongyang considers the outbreak of such a war to be imminent and perhaps inevitable. Even back in the 1970s, the DPRK's entire military build-up and deployment were constructed around a specific doctrinal concept optimized for the occupation of South Korea in the aftermath of a brief war. Although the North Koreans continued to improve their ability to conceal their build-up in order enhance the surprise factor, by and large surprise attack was no longer crucial for the success of the North Korean perceived strategic offensive. The DPRK's declared doctrine for war with the ROK was very specific in its description of course of events leading to the ultimate unification of Korea. DPRK leader Kim II-Song explained in late April 1975: "If revolution takes place in South Korea, we, as one and the same nation, will not just look at it with folded arms but will strongly support the South Korean people. If the enemy ignites war recklessly, we shall resolutely answer it with war and completely destroy the aggressors. In this war we will only lose the military demarcation line and will gain the country's reunification." Left unsaid was Pyongyang's intention and resolve to incite the necessary "popular revolt" through the massive use of special forces and agents once the time was ripe for a major war.

By the 1980s, the diversified special units organized under the command of the 124th Army, itself components of the Special 8th Corps, were already the most important element of the North Korean Armed Forces. These were the special forces optimized for deep infiltration and insertion into the South in order to incite the "popular revolt" which would provide justification for the KPA's offensive. In the early 1980s, the 124th Army included 22 diversionary regiments (three battalions each), three commando regiments, five airborne battalions, a river-crossing regiment and three amphibious battalions. All together, there were over 100,000 special troops in 560 maneuver battalions, constituting some 15 percent of the North Korean standing Armed Forces. For comparison, back in 1970 the KPA had only 12,000 special forces. The mere size of the increase is indicative of their growing importance.

The Special 8th Corps also included over 200 Antonov An-2 light transport aircraft and the 87 illegally purchased US-made Hughes 300 and Hughes 500 helicopters for simultaneous infiltration to the South. The helicopters were illegally purchased in the US and delivered to North Korea via the Netherlands and Japan in a complex clandestine operation of the North Korean Intelligence with assistance from the KGB. The South Korean Air Force uses both types of helicopters, and therefore, its ability to block infiltration by Hughes helicopters from the North will be extremely difficult. Indeed, in the summer of 1985, a test penetration into South Korean airspace by two North Korean Hughes 500 helicopters was successful. The North Koreans also developed a fleet of various semi-submersible landing craft for seaborne infiltration. Furthermore, there are ongoing persistent efforts to insert agents and diversionary teams by boats, through tunnels under the DMZ, or by air. It is impossible to estimate the actual number of deep cover agents already in place. The quality and tenacity of the North Korean diversionary troops was clearly demonstrated in the October 9, 1983, bombing in Rangoon in which North Korean officers attempted to kill the entire leadership of South Korea.

Since the late 1980s, the entire Intelligence and Special forces structure of the DPRK has been constantly expanded and vastly improved. Most unique among the North Korean quality forces are the Special Forces. The DPRK has huge terrorist and special operations forces that are both active in peacetime and are supposed to become a major strategic asset during the "sacred war of liberation".

Although answering to a convoluted system of politically-oriented and military bodies, mainly the General Staff itself, the Reconnaissance Bureau of the General Staff, and the WPK's Central Committee, are actually all components of a very centralized system which is personally controlled by Kim II-Song's son, Kim Jong-II, through a very small staff of experts who are fiercely loyal to him. Since the mid-1980s, the commander has been General Kang Chan-Su, who took over from Kim Jung-Rin, the father of the DPRK's special forces. The instructions for operations come directly from him and are sent down to the executing entity.

In peacetime, the controlling agencies are predominantly for control-management and training functions. The North Korean Special Forces are loosely organized under the Special 8th Corps, and especially its 124th Army. (The original Unit 124 was transformed into the Army, and another special forces unit, Unit 283, was completely absorbed.) The Special 8th Corps operates under the principle: “applying the legitimacy of modern warfare and revolutionary warfare.” As part of the 8th Special Corps, answering directly to General Staff, the KPA fields four reconnaissance brigades (Units 60, 61, 62 and 63 of the Reconnaissance Bureau), eight light infantry brigades, 24 Special Forces brigades, three amphibious brigades, five air battalions, and two dedicated training centers (Units 907 and 198). According to a KPA Special Operations officer who defected in September 1993, these centers include a 1km long underground tunnel for infiltration training and full-sized mock-ups of South Korean city streets, complete with shops displaying South Korean-made products.

In addition, the KPA has 35 Independent Light Infantry Battalions trained to operate on their own or on behalf of divisional forces. These battalions are sustained by five élite Training Regiments (Units 90, 91, 92, 93 and 94), each equipped with its own tank and assault gun companies for training special force operations against heavy units. In wartime, these training units will be added to the élite forces breaching holes in the ROK fortified defenses on the DMZ. Naval infiltration is controlled by Units 459, 632, 753 and 755 on the basis of geographical areas and intended landing sites along the ROK coast lines. Units 217, 250, and many more oversee cross-DMZ infiltration by terrorist and reconnaissance detachments.

In addition, for politically sensitive and crucial operations, the DPRK relies on the assets of the Reconnaissance Bureau of the General Staff, including the high quality Special Purpose Forces (which adopted the Soviet designation Spetsnaz after joint training with their Soviet counterparts in the mid-1980s), and special sea-going units. The training and preparing of these élite troops, operatives and agents is under the responsibility of Unit 940. The training of these Spetsnaz troops is conducted under the slogan “one against one hundred” and includes all types of armed and unarmed combat, sabotage, use of improvised instruments, as well as such unique skills as assassination with chopsticks. A lot of training is conducted in US/ROK uniforms with enemy weapons and against mock-ups of specific objectives built in the Spetsnaz training centers. The training courses of the North Korean Spetsnaz also include three years of English studies. Further more, the DPRK has the separate Unit 695 of the political administration which is devoted to espionage and contacts with foreigners, including building clandestine cells and planting networks in the ROK, Japan, and increasingly, the US itself.

The DPRK also fields highly lethal Spetsnaz and terrorists, both Koreans and foreigners, throughout the Third World and even the US. North Korean intelligence operatives and Latin American terrorists receive advance and specialized training for clandestine operations in the western hemisphere in the Melli University in Iran. Since the 1970s, Japanese (many veteran JRA terrorists), Arabs, Central Americans and Puerto Ricans, and especially sub-Saharan Africans have been sent to the DPRK or Libya for recruitment and intensive training pending their deployment to their native countries. In the US, DPRK operatives are fully integrated into the Tehran-dominated Islamist terrorist movement and are expected to contribute to, and participate in, spectacular terrorist operations as agreed upon between Tehran and Pyongyang.

In order to carry out clandestine operations as instruments of state policy at the highest level, Pyongyang has a specialized force under the Research Department of the WPK’s Central Committee because of their political sensitivity. Kim Jong-Il is personally responsible for the operations of the Research Department. Usually, he himself initiates operations, and definitely personally approves each and every special operation. The real name of this unique force is the Research Department for External Intelligence (RDEI).

This force carried out such operations as the October 1983 bombing attack in Rangoon on President Chun Doo Hwan and the entire South Korean Government (killing 17 key officials and wounding several others including the president), and the November 1987 mid-air bombing of the KAL flight 858 (killing 115 passengers). Kim Jong-Il is known to have approved both the Rangoon assassination attempt and the mid-air explosion. Kim Hyun Hee (the perpetrator of the KAL operation) says she was told by the Director of RDEI that Kim Jong-Il not only issues a “handwritten” order, but, “this whole mission is in fact Our Dear Leader’s own idea”.

Meanwhile, the DPRK has been closely studying infiltration avenues and techniques into the US since at least early 1983, when four small North Korean freighters escorted by several small trawlers, all fitted with a vast array of antennae and other ELINT equipment, were patrolling the Gulf of California and the shores of California and northern Mexico. Although the primary and original mission of this flotilla was to collect electronic intelligence and provide early-warning in case of a US military intervention in Central America, the ships were well equipped to study, and possibly even conduct, insertion operations. The Korean crews were “soldiers or commandoes” also involved with Central American revolutionaries.

Moreover, the DPRK freighters used in these operations were of the same type used for the clandestine insertion of DPRK Spetsnaz into hostile countries and supporting international terrorist activities. For example, one such freighter, the I    g Gon Ae Guk-Ho, was used for the insertion to the Rangoon area of the detachment which attempted the assassination of the entire ROK Government which was visiting at the time.

In mid-1993, in the aftermath of the “Semi-War State”, the North Korean intelligence system underwent major changes which significantly increased its capabilities to operate in and against the ROK. The most important development was that Gen. O Kuk-Yol, the military devotee of Kim Jong-Il, was named the Director of the Operations Department, a most important intelligence arm.

General O Kuk-Yol is the military confidant and right hand man of Kim Jong-Il, long in charge of the DPRK’s nuclear effort and who is currently emerging as the new leader of North Korea. It is highly important that O Kuk-Yol and O Chin-U, Kim Il-Song’s military confidant and right hand man, are distant relatives. What O Chin-U is to Kim Il-Song, is what O Kuk-Yol is to Kim Jong-Il.

The son of a legendary partisan who was killed fighting along with Kim Il-Song in the 1930s, O Kuk-Yol is a graduate of prestigious party schools, including the Mangyongdae specialized elementary school system for orphans of DPRK’s wars used also for the children of the WPK’s most powerful. He then had a brilliant military career, including studies in the Frunze Academy and other key military schools in the USSR. In the 1970s and 1980s, he was Chief of the General Staff. In this capacity, he “played a vanguard rôle in the military in strengthening the ground work for the hereditary succession of power by Kim Jong-Il”. At this stage he became Kim Jong-Il’s confidant. Since in the mid-1980s, the most important military reforms since the 1950s were conducted under O Kuk-Yol, then Chief of the General Staff. O Kuk-Yol was then “regarded as Kim Jong-Il’s right hand man”. (At that time Kim Jong-Il became personally responsible for and in charge of the DPRK’s military nuclear program.)

O Kuk-Yol was suddenly dismissed in February 1988, ostensibly purged, and appointed the commander of the DPRK’s Civil Defense. However, a defector disclosed that the appointment was “due to policy consideration because he was not well acquainted with that field”. In reality, O Kuk-Yol was sent to study the nuclear factor, that is principles of nuclear warfare, so he can make decisions when in a powerful position during Kim Jong-Il’s ascendancy. Indeed, in April 1990, O Kuk-Yol participated in the Ninth Supreme People’s Assembly Session, conclusively proving that his “removal” was substance-oriented rather than a political purge. Soon after, another defector from the DPRK military predicted that “O Kuk-Yol will stage a comeback in two to three years”, namely, by the time Kim Jong-Il assumes full power. This prediction proved precise for by mid-1993, O Kuk-Yol emerged as one of DPRK’s most senior intelligence functionaries.

In his new capacity as the Director of the Operations Department, General O Kuk-Yol first trained a whole new élite military force of Party stalwart supporters, tailored after the troops of the Ministry of Interior in the USSR which included both regular and Spetsnaz forces. The new North Korean units are aimed at dealing with possible domestic disturbances. They constitute the Prætorian Guard for Kim Jong-Il. However, it was not long before O Kuk-Yol launched, under this cover, an intense program for highly sensitive spy and saboteur training for operations inside South Korea. These preparations are but a part, albeit an important one, of a major upgrading of the DPRK’s terrorist and intelligence forces conducted by Kim Jong-Il in order to cope with forthcoming crises.

An Myong-Chin, an intelligence Spetsnaz officer who defected in September 1993, disclosed that in the aftermath of these changes the DPRK intelligence is now known as “Office Complex No. 3”. The main school and headquarters is known, since January 1992, as “The Kim Jong-Il Political and Military College” because of the growing importance of Kim Jong-Il to the intelligence system.

The DPRK Intelligence Service is presently divided into four main departments with the following chiefs:

1. The Operations Department under Gen. O Kuk-Yol is responsible for all strategic covert military activities such as subversion, terrorism, special operations;

2. The Social and Cultural Department whose chief is unknown is responsible for active measures and black propaganda;

3. The Reunification Front Department under Kang Chu-Il is responsible for handling the unification fronts, student groups, and other subversive entities;

4. The External Information Investigation Department under Kwon Hui-Kyong is responsible for strategic espionage, military, political and economic, its analysis and presentation to the leadership.

All these Departments send operatives and spies into the ROK. Most important are the people of the Operations Department because they are always in charge of the conduct of all illegal, clandestine, and infiltration operations, both into and inside South Korea, even if they are actually carried out by members of other departments. The Operations Department also has its own large force of Spetsnaz troops and covert operatives. Its main responsibility is preparations for war. All together, by mid-1993, DPRK Intelligence had more than 1,000 such operatives; 200 to 300 of them were already operating inside South Korea. They were carrying out either espionage duties or active preparations for wartime activation (sabotage, subversion, etc.).

The main intelligence school now has an 8km long “South Korean” city with restaurant, coffee shop, supermarket, stationary shop, etc. Despite the ideological threat, the school has a constant supply of the latest South Korean newspapers and movies. An Myong-Chin observed that the subway station and bus terminal, as well as some other key buildings, are identical to those of Seoul.

Just how serious Pyongyang is about the imminence of hostilities and the key rôle of special operations in such a war can be learned from the training of the intelligence Spetsnaz forces. Most important is the infiltration training of operatives of the Operations Department which is conducted by the “715 Liaison Office”. This training includes actual penetrations into South Korea, through underground tunnels and other means. At times, the operatives stay a few kms south of the DMZ. An Myong-Chin reported that on several occasions he had penetrated more than 2km south of the DMZ in order to study and experiment with ROK and US military procedures, examine the Spetsnaz troops’ ability to evade guards and patrols, and gain confidence.

There is independent confirmation to these defector’s reports. For example, on March 6, 1994, a ROK patrol discovered a few discarded weapons along the Imjin River, south of the DMZ. These weapons included a Soviet-made pistol, a US-made M-16, DPRK-made ammunition for both weapons, and German binoculars. These weapons were discarded about one to two years ago, apparently by a DPRK Spetsnaz team during infiltration exercises.  

Meanwhile, there are new indications of an impending escalation in DPRK special operations. Since mid-February 1994, there has been a marked increase in the North Korean urgings for a popular uprising in the South. Pyongyang has launched an overt and covert propaganda blitz.

For internal consumption, the DPRK media has been building anticipation for the “popular uprising”, including acts of violence. Although presented as spontaneous actions by citizens of South Korea, these will actually be terrorist operations carried out by DPRK agents and operatives. The KPA is reminded anew of the DPRK’s basic strategy “revolution in South Korea first, unification of the fatherland second”. Revolution means violence and terrorism induced by DPRK special operations troops.

Indeed, highly specialized assets were recently activated in North Korea pending the anticipated escalation. Most important is a special commando unit in the Nampo Military and Political School comprised of 30 males and nine females. They are being prepared for dispatch into South Korea. All these operatives are orphans with no living relatives. They were brought up from infancy in special institutes of the DPRK Intelligence. This upbringing resulted in instilling in them complete devotion to both Kim Il-Song and Kim Jong-Il, and eagerness to commit acts of extreme bravery and suicide operations in the ROK. In early March 1994, some members of this unit, and numerous other comparable units, were secretly deployed into South Korea or are about to be.

Pyongyang is confident in its ability to dominate the crisis in the Korean Peninsula because, since the early 1990s, the DPRK’s doctrine is based on a purely offensive scenario. Although Pyongyang hopes for a total victory in a short lightening war, there is clear willingness and commitment to complete the mission even at a high price and in a protracted war. Pyongyang’s contingency plans envision triumph within seven days. Toward this end, the KPA will have to neutralize the bulk of US/ROK forces near the DMZ, derail Korean mobilization and delay (prevent) the arrival of US reinforcements, occupy (or at the least besiege) Seoul, and then bring South Korea to the point of demanding a ceasefire and peace negotiations.

Of crucial importance is the contribution of the tens of thousands of special forces and terrorists expected to be activated in the rear of the ROK, opening a “second front” as destructive to US/ROK forces as the main front. The objectives of these irregular forces will be both strategic and operational. Their most important mission-role is the destruction of military assets and installations, especially those that might be used for the arrival of US reinforcements. Pyongyang is convinced that the US inability to turn the tide within the first few days of the war might convince Washington to give up a lost cause. Another key mission is the terrorizing of the ROK civilian population in order to further complicate Seoul’s ability to conduct war, and convince Seoul to sue for peace (surrender) before the suffering of the civilians is too much to bear.

Under present conditions, from a purely military perspective, this scenario has a good chance to succeed, especially if the US is compelled to delay or even restrain its reaction to DPRK aggression. Therefore, a threat from Pyongyang to hit not only the main centers of South Korea, but also Japan, including Tokyo, and perhaps even Russia, (Vladivostok for example), with nuclear weapons in case the United States decides to further intervene in the war is bound to have a major impact on the decisionmaking process in Washington. At the very least, deliberations in Washington on the appropriate reaction to the North Korean invasion and the new nuclear threats will take long enough for the KPA, by Pyongyang’s own worst case calculations, to complete the encirclement of the Korean Peninsula.

In the case Pyongyang decides to expand the ultimatum to a direct threat to the United States itself, it would be able to do so primarily with cruise missiles with warheads filled with biological weapons. A credible threat would be a warning to launch one or more of these cruise missiles against a coastal metropolitan center such as New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and even Washington DC. The DPRK is known to have such seaborne cruise missiles and can launch them either from the trawlers and cargo ships of the North Korean special forces, as well as from clandestinely converted civilian vessels under the flag of neutral countries. There should be no doubt that if such terror weapons were utilized, Washington would react with fury, essentially obliterating the DPRK. The great threat, however, lies in the mere North Korean threat to use such terror weapons because it can again lead to the postponement of a decision on a resolute escalation of the fighting in Korea.

The rôle of O Kuk-Yol in the revitalized intelligence and special forces apparatus is especially crucial when the Korean Peninsula is on the verge of war. Pyongyang’s scenario for war, in which the KPA attacks preemptively in reaction to a “popular uprising” and the recognition of an imminent threat (US build-up), depends on the success of the “popular uprising” and the speedy neutralization of key installations. Both of these tasks are the responsibility of the intelligence and special forces apparatus. Therefore, the nomination of General O Kuk-Yol, one of Kim Jong-Il’s closest military confidants and a brilliant military officer, to his current position reflects Kim Jong-Il’s determination to have a highly capable confidant at the command of these crucial forces. The magnitude and timing of the entire reform process of the intelligence and special forces apparatus strongly supports the sense of urgency in Pyongyang.

Indeed, Pyongyang is raising the level of tension, creating an “eve of war crisis” environment. By late March 1994, the DPRK was actively pushing the Korean Peninsula toward war. On the 25th, Pyongyang issued “an emergency alert order” to its entire military system, putting the entire KPA on high alert. Most noteworthy, the 650,000-strong KPA forces deployed throughout some 100 miles north of the DMZ were put on a special alert. The training of the KPA troops intensified all over the country. The DPRK was undertaking other measures as well, indicating the last minute preparations for war. Among these measures are the examination of both the KPA’s and the national emergency communication lines, intensification of military training, and increasing air defense facilities, both deployment and dispersement of assets as well as enhanced readiness of the entire Air Force and Air Defense system. Soon afterwards, the High Command informed the KPA that the wartime system has been activated. Consequently, the national mobilization system was activated to such a degree, that some five-million reservists can now be mobilized within 12 hours.

In early April 1994, the North Korean war threats became more specific and credible. On April 5, an alarmist Pyongyang warned that war was imminent and that the situation in the Korean Peninsula was more severe than that on the eve of the Korean War of 1950-53. “A touch-and-go situation is prevailing on the Korean Peninsula in which a war may break out any moment.” Pyongyang pointed out that all the factors needed to spark another major war in the Korean Peninsula are falling into place.

It is noteworthy that according to the North Korean version of the Korean War, the KPA went on the attack in reaction to an imminent and inevitable US offensive. Thus, the DPRK’s war was defensive even though its KPA was on the offensive from the very beginning. Pyongyang concluded that these and comparable “facts tell that the situation on the Korean Peninsula resembles that on the eve of the past Korean War”.

Pyongyang’s anticipation of an imminent war was clarified on April 8, 1994, in a major speech by the KPA Chief of the General Staff, Vice Marshal Choe Kwang, presently a most authoritative speaker on the DPRK’s military strategy and intentions. The bellicose speech stressed that Korea was on the brink of war and that the KPA is ready for it. “The tense situation in which a war may break out at any time has been created in our country owing to the vicious anti-socialist, anti-DPRK campaigns of the imperialists and other international reactionary forces,” Choe Kwang declared. “It is our unshakable will and policy to answer strength with strength, and dialogue with dialogue,” he explained. “No machinations of the enemy can frighten our people and the People’s Army that are under the outstanding leadership of a great brilliant commander [Kim Jong-Il]. . . . If the enemy dare ignite a war, our people and the People’s Army, unshakably determined to share the destiny with the party, will meet them courageously and wipe out the enemy relentlessly.”

 January 1999 Report: The New Crisis On The Korean Peninsula Is Worst in 50 Years

The following report appeared in the January 1999, edition of Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy.

North Korea's military build-up and preparations for war are now at a level and capability not seen since the eve of the Korean War in 1949-1950. Now, the DPRK is equipped with significant long-range ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. And a treaty with the People's Republic of China which makes PRC involvement in any conflict inevitable. What's more, the US, in the midst of preoccupations elsewhere, is being blamed as the aggressor.

Analysis. By Yossef Bodansky, Senior Editor, GIS. The Korean Peninsula is in the midst of one of the worst crises since the Korean War, almost 50 years ago. In many respects, the current crisis is worse than the near-war crises of 1992 and 1994, and it resembles the tension of 1949-50, the eve of the first Korean War. Indeed, Pyongyang is openly speaking about an imminent new Korean War. Since early December 1998, the DPRK has been raising its military preparations as well as war-like incitement and propaganda to an unprecedented level. This dynamic is not unlike the saber-rattling of 1992 and 1994, when, we now know, the DPRK was very close to launching a war on the Korean peninsula.

At the time of writing, late January 1999, all intelligence indicators anticipated that if a crisis was to erupt, it would be in March-April 1999 when the climate is more conducive for fighting. Ultimately, such a crisis may erupt if only because the DPRK has no other way out of its current debilitating economic situation and the building pressure on the Kim Jong-Il Administration in Pyongyang. The continued mobilization and incitement for war of the North Korean population does not bode well.

Seoul is not oblivious to these developments. In a January 23, 1999, interview with the Seoul KBS-1 Television Network, South Korean Defense Minister Chun Yong-Taek stressed the challenges ahead: "Many experts are worried about a security threat and instability on the Korean peninsula in 1999. Thus, one of my most important missions is to further strengthen the war deterrence mechanism. I will also make every effort to prevent emergencies." On January 27, Lim Dong-Won, senior secretary to the South Korean President for foreign affairs and national security, arrived in Washington for emergency discussions on meeting the challenges of Pyongyang's "brinkmanship diplomacy". A delegation of five senior members of the South Korean Parliament was scheduled to arrive in Washington in the first week of February for discussions with Members of Congress on the escalating crisis in North Korea and possible approaches for resolving it.

It is because of the sense of urgency expressed by the Korean parliamentarians that their delegation will be received at the first week the US Congress is back in session and while the Impeachment Trial of US President William Clinton is still on.

THE CURRENT CRISIS started in early December 1998 when the General Staff of the (North) Korean People's Army (KPA) issued a lengthy and authoritative statement warning that the United States was actively instigating a new Korean War. The statement stressed that the KPA would rise to the challenge. "We neither want nor avoid a war. If a war is imposed, we will never miss the opportunity," the statement read. "It must be clearly known that there is no limit to the strike of our [Korean] People's Army and that on this planet there is no room for escaping the strike." The KPA General Staff further warned that the DPRK would answer the US challenge with an "annihilating blow".

Now that the US had "thrown off the mask of dialogue and negotiation", the KPA would answer "fire with fire", the statement added. The KPA General Staff stressed that the future war would be a decisive regional, if not global, conflagration. "It must also be realized that the target of our strike in the war is not only the US imperialist aggression forces . . . but also the South Korean puppets who are willing to serve as their bullet-shield and Japan and all others that offer [the US] bases or act as servants behind the scenes."

The statement of the KPA General Staff was repeatedly carried and highlighted by the entire North Korean mass media, both printed and electronic, between December 2 and 4, 1998.

The issuing of this statement by the KPA General Staff led to a still intensifying and unprecedented wave of anti-US incitement and eve-of-war propaganda. However, this is not a campaign of empty rhetoric, but rather follow-up statements building-on and clarifying the original statement of the KPA General Staff. "Arrogant US imperialists have gone beyond the danger line in their aggressive attempts to stifle the DPRK with military strength," noted KPA Vice-Minister Jong Chang-Ryol in one of these follow-up statements. He stressed the imminence of the threat of war. "Under the prevailing touch-and-go situation, the KPA is now bracing itself for a fight against the US imperialist aggressors," he told the DPRK's official news agency, the KCNA.

He also alluded to the use of weapons of mass destruction against, and possibly in, the US. He warned that should the US "unleash a war, our People's Army will blow up the US territory as a whole and demonstrate the mettle of the great Marshal Kim Jong-Il's army, the strongest in the world." In another follow up statement, the DPRK's Foreign Ministry not only endorsed the KPA's statement but stressed that the mounting crisis with the United States is so grave that "there is no way to solve this [crisis] through diplomacy".

The unique aspect of Pyongyang's declaratory policy, starting with the KPA General Staff's statement, is the preoccupation with "US war-plan # 5027" as a viable and imminent threat. Official Pyongyang is adamant that war-plan # 5027 is already being implemented; a razor-thin difference from a declaration of being at war with the US. All of Pyongyang's activities vis-a-vis the US, the ROK and Japan are now interpreted in the context of Washington's "implementation of war-plan # 5027". Thus, the sanctions against the North or the nuclear inspections the US is demanding are but phases in the execution of "war-plan # 5027". Essentially, as far as official Pyongyang is concerned, war-plan # 5027 is already being implemented against the DPRK thus, the US and its allies are waging war against the DPRK.

This definition is most important because any offensive move by the DPRK could now be defined by Pyongyang as a counter-move or response to the ongoing "war" which the US was already waging. Official Pyongyang relied on the mythical authority of Kim Chol Man, a legendary partisan fighter and a comrade in arms of Kim Il-Song, to stress the viability and legitimacy of preemption. "The Korean people have been a long time awaiting the moment to settle accounts with the US imperialist aggressors, the Japanese reactionaries and the South Korean authorities. The right to preemptive strike does not rest entirely with them," Kim Chol Man said.

The KPA's statement, he stressed, "is a declaration of [North] Korea's resolution to shower bombs of revenge on the stronghold of the sworn enemies" not in retaliation for their aggression but in the pursuit of the DPRK's own sacred objectives. "Once the enemies dare to unleash a war we will never miss the opportunity to achieve the historic cause of national reunification and build a powerful state in this land. The US imperialists will see the Korean people raising their iron fists with wrath. They will clearly see how they will meet destruction in the '90s in this land of history where they started downhill in the '50s."

In mid-December 1998, official Pyongyang clearly defined the ramifications and context of the unfolding struggle with the United States. "The US imperialists seek to crush our republic by force and establish a colonial rule over all of Korea. The US imperialists seek to use our underground nuclear facility and our missile threats as an excuse to provoke a Korean war of aggression." Pyongyang presented both the current diplomatic process and recent events, such as the late-August launch of the TaepoDong-1 SSM, in the context of the escalating confrontation with the US. "We have already viewed the enemies' maneuvers against us as a declaration of war and have said what our countermeasures would be. That is, we will answer the US imperialists' challenge with an annihilating blow without forgiving them at all. We have also made clear that whether we launch another satellite and use the satellite for military purposes depends on the hostile forces' attitude."

With time, the war message became stronger. In late December, official Pyongyang commentary stressed the imminence of an eruption of a new Korean war. The DPRK was desperately "building socialism" despite "hostile maneuvers of enemies such as operation plan # 5027." The people of North Korea were carrying out "the struggle for socialist construction and the Fatherland's reunification" in a state of "acute confrontation with the enemy". The essence of Washington's Korean policy is being clarified in the current crisis as "the US imperialists are throwing away the mask of appeasement and engagement at every opportunity, and are driving the situation of the Korean peninsula to the brink of war, a touch-and-go situation."

Throughout these statements and media commentary, official Pyongyang would not provide any key to defusing the crisis. There was no indication of what the US, the ROK or Japan should do in order to reverse the ongoing escalation and reduce tension. On the contrary, Pyongyang kept issuing more bellicose statements, including explicit threats of terrorism and use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). For example, KPA General Ju Sang-Song stressed the enormity of the DPRK's revenge when discussing the steadfast faith and will of the KPA. "If the US imperialists ignite the train of a war, we will make the United States, a crime-woven country, no longer exist on the earth," he stated. In mid-December, official Pyongyang also quoted a student activist discussing the North Korean revenge. "The enemies reduced our Pyongyang to a pile of ashes during the fatherland liberation war. Therefore, we, who are in a showdown for the fatherland's reunification, will turn Washington, the US imperialists' stronghold, into a sea of fire and crush Seoul and Tokyo to ensure they are not revived." In another statement a few days later, Pyongyang provided indication of the means and methods for the implementation of these threats. "The spirit of human bomb is the most powerful weapon which only the Korean army and people can have," official Pyongyang declared. The quintessential North Korean spirit is "a noble spirit of defending their leader at the cost of their lives."

Pyongyang's escalating rhetoric has not been happening in a vacuum. The KPA General Staff issued its statement just as the DPRK was completing a hectic build-up of national-level military infrastructure (safe communications, roads, underground shelters, etc., discussed below). Furthermore, its statement has been followed by a national mobilization and military build-up. Beijing was alerted to the mounting tension by its Pyongyang-based officials and analysts. "North Korea is in a state of war readiness and is holding mass rallies to whip up anti-American hatred," said one PRC report. Most worrisome were the military preparations observed. "Commanders of combat troops had been sent to the demilitarized zone [separating the DPRK and the ROK], while the General Staff was drawing up a comprehensive plan to repel an expected invasion by American- led forces," read another report. Among the Pyongyang elite, the People's Republic of China (PRC) officials warned Beijing, it is a commonly accepted reality that "an attack [by the US] is imminent."

The Chinese also noted, and stressed the importance of, the disappearance of Kim Jong-Il and the prevalence of rumors among the Pyongyang elite that he was in his "wartime bunker" putting final touches to the DPRK's war-plans. Kim Jong-Il vanished from the public scene suddenly and in the midst of these important dynamics. Since the Fall of 1998, he has intensified the pace of his visits to key military facilities and front-line units in the vicinity of the ROK. Then, just as the KPA General Staff's statement was issued, he disappeared. Kim Jong-Il even missed several annual public events both his father and he normally attended. Little wonder that Pyongyang was awash with rumors about Kim Jong-Il's absence and activities.

Among the Pyongyang elite, the most prevalent explanation for Kim Jong-Il's absence was that he was in his wartime bunker contemplating policies and strategies, and perhaps, even getting ready for the imminent war. While there was no independent confirmation for Kim Jong-Il's whereabouts, and while the bunker story might very well be Pyongyang's disinformation part of war-of-nerves against the ROK and the US, the mere widespread acceptability of Kim Jong-Il's bunker rumors accurately reflects the eve-of-war mood among the Pyongyang elite. Kim Jong-Il reappeared only in late December 1998, visiting the all-female air defense unit # 696. Meanwhile, the mobilization and the war incitement continues.

Throughout this period, there has been an intense and unprecedented expansion of the DPRK's ballistic missiles forces. The discovered aspects of this undertaking include the activation of previously unknown concealed underground storage-and-launch sites as well as the building of several new operational underground sites. Many of these sites are for the longer-range NoDong-1 and/or -2 and TaepoDong-1 SSMs. These sites markedly improve the DPRK's ability to launch WMD-tipped ballistic missiles onto Japan and perhaps even the US bases in Okinawa and Guam. Considering that all this work is taking place despite extremely cold weather, in frozen ground and with an acute shortage of heavy engineering equipment, this burst of activities must reflect a great sense of urgency in Pyongyang.

Meanwhile, soon after the KPA General Staff's statement was issued, Beijing also started to hype up the tension, most significantly in closed-door talks with Tokyo. Beijing notified Tokyo "under the table" that the PRC had been trying in recent days to get the DPRK to agree to a few changes in their mutual defense treaty. Most important for the Chinese, Beijing explained, is the clause facilitating automatic Chinese intervention in any new war in the Korean peninsula in which the US is involved.

Beijing informed Tokyo that Pyongyang adamantly refused to hear anything about changes to their treaty which meant that the intervention clause was still in effect. Tokyo interpreted this communication as a Chinese exercise in political pressure on Japan.

Treaty or no treaty, Pyongyang cannot coerce Beijing to go to war against the US. So what Beijing really wanted to convey in Tokyo was a reminder that Beijing considered itself obligated by treaty (and national interest) to intervene militarily in a future Korean War. Beijing wanted to both deter Tokyo from assisting the US and the ROK if anything happened, as well as make sure that the Chinese warning message got to Washington, thus deterring further US action against the DPRK. Pyongyang's continued threats to Japan in the current crisis should be viewed in this context.

THE STATEMENT of the KPA General Staff and the ensuing incitement campaign should be examined most seriously because of the timing and circumstances of their unleashing. In early December 1998, the time the KPA issued their statement, the DPRK had just completed a most profound reform of the uppermost governing bodies. As well, the DPRK completed a major military build-up, including the marked upgrading of the country's strategic infrastructure. Thus, it could be argued that the North Korean General Staff issued its statement, which instigated the current crisis, only once the preparations for that crisis and an ensuing potential escalation had been completed.

The most important trends in the uppermost echelons of power in Pyongyang are the further consolidation of power for the KPA High Command and the erosion in the power of the Worker's Party of Korea's (WPK's) elite. The unprecedented power given to the defense establishment is best illustrated by the transformation of the DPRK's "State Security Agency", the country's main foreign intelligence service. Until recently, the State Security Agency had been under the direct command of Kim Jong-Il. However, in the second half of 1998, its leadership was removed on Kim Jong-Il's direct orders with its first vice-chairman, Kim Young-Ryong, purged on charges of corruption. Soon afterwards, the State Security Agency was integrated into the DPRK's National Defense Commission which is headed by Kim Jong-Il. Thus, although Kim Jong-Il still personally oversees the intelligence operations, these activities are now subservient to the defense establishment.

Moreover, starting October 1998, the Military Security Headquarters (MSH), an arm of the KPA under the command of General Won Ung-Hui, assumed responsibility for key internal security and law enforcement activities until now the jurisdiction of civilian authorities. Most significant is the MSH's spearheading the "corruption" investigations against officials and WPK cadres who had contacts with South Koreans and other westerners in the context of attracting foreign investment in Nampo, Najin, and Sonbong, the centers of foreign business construction and ostensibly economic liberalization.

The MSH is also responsible for the purge of the implicated officials and cadres. Kim Jong-Il entrusted the KPA with both the investigation and purge because, in his words, "the State Security Department and the Ministry of Public Security are in collusion with the corrupted forces." In contrast, Kim Jong-Il stressed, the KPA was fiercely loyal to his leadership. In mid-January, affected North Korean functionaries confided to South Korean businessmen that the MSH-run inspection is a "targeted scrutiny to replace cadre posts with new figures in the course of realigning the power structure since the reappointment of Kim Jong-il as Chairman of the National Defense Committee [back in September 1998]".

Indeed, the continued weakening of the WPK power centers is a direct outcome of Kim Jong-Il's growing mistrust of the party bureaucracy. The recent defections of Hwang Jang-Yop and other senior civilian officials, compared to the absence of defections from among mid-rank and senior officers, provide one explanation to Kim Jong-Il's alienation. At the same time, Kim Jong-Il cannot attack and/or denigrate the WPK without harming the ideological character of the DPRK. Instead, relying on ideological evolution of the Juche doctrine, Kim Jong-Il modified the power structure in order to increase the power of the KPA elite over that of the WPK's elite.

Pyongyang established "two axes of rule" as the venue for exercising power. They are "fortifying the nation" namely, the establishment of a strong militarized nation, and the ideology that the needs of the military have precedence over all other aspects of society. The latter aspect has already had direct implications. For example, the WPK's 'Second Economic Committee', which is responsible for the military's support sector, has been giving priority to supplying raw material to weapons production, food for the troops' consumption, building materials and equipment for military construction, to the detriment of the North Korean economic sustenance, let alone recovery.

Meanwhile, more subtle measures are being adopted to undermine the WPK's hold over power. One way the WPK is being weakened is by not filling vacant posts at the top. Thus, the posts of the WPK's Chief of International Affairs (held by the defecting Hwang Jang-Yop), Chief of Agricultural Affairs (held by the purged Suh Gwan-Hee), and possibly the Chief of the Department of the Unification Front are still vacant. Moreover, Pyongyang split into two positions the responsibility of the Secretary of Municipal and Provincial Party Committee, the WPK's senior most official supervising local Party cadres and thus in effect in charge of the domestic situation.

The Secretary of Municipal and Provincial Party Committee is now in charge of the smooth functioning of the Party apparatus, the loyalty and docility of cadres, and the Party hold over power. The recently separated post of Chairman of the People's Committee has been put in charge of economic affairs, including industrialization and food production, the two most crucial challenges facing the North. Since the entire non-strategic economic activity is tightly controlled by the Party, this separation amounts to the creation of competing and overlapping power-hungry bureaucracies which, as in all communist states, will fight and weaken each other.

Consequently, Kim Jong-Il and his militarized coterie exercise greater control over what used to be a distinctly Party domain. The primary organ through which Kim Jong-Il wields power is the National Defense Committee of which he is the Chairman. Seven of the 10 members of the Committee are active-duty General-rank officers. Moreover, the average political standing of each of these generals in the WPK hierarchy rose between seven and 10 positions since the beginning of the current power shift.

Kim Jong-Il's military-based ruling system is not only growing stronger within the bureaucracy but also inside the WPK. The rise of members of the high command has had a ripple effect throughout the KPA. The vacating of command posts provided the venue for the bolstering of the command echelons of the elite combat units. As a result, there was a widespread change of army and division commanders and senior staff officers. Most important is the new generation of combat unit general officers, mainly division commanders, who are around 45 years old, better educated and with greater technical aptitude than their predecessors.

At the bottom of this rejuvenation of the KPA officer corps are the zealot junior officers now in their mid-twenties. They are not only professionally educated, but have volunteered to commit their whole life to the cause of the KPA. For example, they must live with the troops inside the compounds, particularly the forward underground positions, and cannot marry until they are 30 years old in order not to have distraction from army life. Taken together the elevation of this new generation of professional and proficient officers will markedly increase the combat power of the KPA.

There was a corresponding refinement in the KPA's training program. Although the 1998 overall levels of military training were not much different from those of prior years, they were more focused on specific areas of priority. At the national-level during the Winter training period, the DPRK conducted a large-scale nationwide exercise of the transition to a wartime system. The mobilization exercises demonstrated that the DPRK's reserve forces had grown to 7,400,000 reservists in comparison with 6,500,000 reservists in 1997. Significantly, the DPRK did not demobilize after the completion of this exercise. Instead, since the end of the exercise, the DPRK has maintained a high level of combat power through a series of "inspections of national evaluation" mechanism. At the military level, strategic and operational-level command post exercises replaced large scale military maneuvers primarily in order to conserve resources. At the same time, there was a marked increase in the small-unit maneuver drills of special forces, the use of the Shark-class submarines and the An-2 infiltration aircraft, as well as the introduction and mastering of new infiltration equipment. Presently, the KPA's special forces exceed 100,000 troops.

Meanwhile, the DPRK completed a major expansion of its strategic infrastructure. In early Winter 1998, the ROK government confirmed the existence of 8,236 "primary underground facilities" the combined length of which was estimated to be 342 miles. A key facet of this program was the moving of 180 armament factories underground in preparation for war. Throughout the DPRK, new emergency landing strips were constructed on major roads, and new combat positions and anti-tank obstacles were built along anticipated axes of advance. Most significant are the emergency runway and anti-tank barriers built on the Pyongyang-Kaesung Highway. Additional fortifications were built in the coastal region, including large fields of double barbed wire entanglements and multiple-barrel rocket launcher units deployed in areas covering potential amphibious landing sites. The number of 170mm self-propelled guns, 240mm multiple-barrel rocket launchers, and other long-range artillery units in forward fortified or underground positions from which they can strike Seoul markedly increased. By now, some 60 percent of the KPA is deployed south of the Pyongyang-Wonsan line along with enough munitions, foodstuffs and oil for a war lasting three to four months without any additional outside supplies.

Although the DPRK's acute economic problems somewhat slowed down the quantitative growth of the KPA's conventional arsenal, large sums of hard currency were spent on weapons for the special forces and the air force. Most of these weapon systems were purchased, both legally and illegally, in Russia and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. Among the key items purchased were assault and combat helicopters, numerous types of missiles and sophisticated artillery shells.

Russian officials stressed that the DPRK "has purchased Russian-made military equipment, such as military helicopters, with foreign currency earned from smuggling drugs in the Russian Far East". North Korean intelligence has also commissioned the Russian Mafiya to acquire second-hand weapons and military surplus both legally and illegally throughout the Russian Far East and Central Asia. These second-hand weapons are cheap and easy to procure so that the DPRK's relatively limited hard currency and drug resources can still purchase relatively large quantities of weapons and ammunition.

BY NOW, Pyongyang has even succeeded to unnerve official Seoul. On January 21st, official Pyongyang reiterated the threat to turn South Korea and the United States "into a sea of fire" if they attacked the North. "If the US imperialists, their henchmen and followers dare unleash a war against the DPRK, the Korean people and revolutionary armed forces will never miss the opportunity to plunge the provokers into a sea of fire and to reduce them to ashes," read the official newspaper Nodong Sinmun. KCNA, the DPRK's official news agency, cited similar warnings printed in another official newspaper according to which the DPRK "will annihilate the aggressors in reliance upon the invincible might which it has cultivated for scores of years and achieve the historic cause of national reunification."

Seoul reacted quickly, and, uncharacteristically, formally. Initially, ROK officials stressed that these threats were "some of the strongest in recent years." Soon afterwards, President Kim Dae-Jung declared that South Korea must be ready for a North Korean rapid military strike with weapons of mass destruction. In an address to a government defense meeting, he stated that the DPRK had adopted a "rapid strike strategy" which Pyongyang is hard pressed to attempt "as their conventional weapons are aging" and thus may not be useable in the future. "As long as North Korea has a strategy to stage a rapid preemptive military strike against South Korea using weapons of mass destruction, we should be fully prepared for this." However, the only viable answer to the North Korean threat is a regional alliance, President Kim Dae-Jung said. "Together, South Korea, the United States and Japan should show strong determination to annihilate North Korea, so that North Korea does not even consider [staging such an attack]." At the same time, President Kim Dae-Jung noted that "although a strong defense is imperative", the ROK "must give hope" to the famine-stricken DPRK in case it decides to cooperate with the ROK and its allies.

Pyongyang responded on the 23rd, ignoring Seoul's olive branch. The DPRK stressed that the imminent Korean War would not be a clash between the two Koreas, but rather a fateful confrontation between the DPRK and the United States which would extend into the heart of the US. Pyongyang's response, carried as an editorial by the entire North Korean media from the official Nodong Sinmun, to the KCNA and the electronic media came close to acknowledging the country's nuclear weapons and the ability to strike the US itself. Pyongyang argued that recent US strategic moves -- from the reaction to the TaepoDong-1 launch in August 1998 to the development of anti-ballistic missile defense -- are all phases in a US conspiracy aimed to incite a new war in Korea. "The moves show how frantically the US hawks are trying to unleash a war of aggression on the DPRK by stepping up the modernization of the US armed forces, insisting that the DPRK launched a 'missile,' not an artificial satellite." Therefore, Pyongyang concluded, "the final goal of the US warmongers [is] to stifle the Korean socialist system with nuclear attacks" and this is unacceptable.

"Unless they give up the goal, an armed conflict, that is a nuclear war, is unavoidable," Pyongyang warned. This nuclear war would not be limited to the Korean peninsula, and the US would not enjoy a nuclear monopoly. "The United States, which dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, has not yet been hit by a single shell over the past five decades or so," Pyongyang noted. "But the situation is different now," the editorial declared. "If the United States attempts to inflict a nuclear holocaust on the DPRK, its mainland will never be left unharmed, either."

In another article carried that day by the entire DPRK media, Pyongyang reiterated the threats to Seoul. "Now that the US imperialists and the South Korean authorities have made it a fait accompli to stifle the DPRK militarily, outbreak of war on the Korean peninsula is a matter of time," this editorial read. "We are not afraid of war, but merciless to provokers. If the enemies finally ignite a war despite our repeated warnings, they will be annihilated."

Meanwhile, the North Korean military build-up and related bellicosity continue. On January 29, 1999, the Japanese Government announced that Tokyo learned of a new deployment of additional North Korean ballistic missiles capable of hitting Japan. Pyongyang reacted with fury, predicting anew a forthcoming face-off with the US, the ROK, and Japan while threatening the dire consequences of such a crisis. "[The DPRK] is neither surprised by any 'threat' nor will it avoid any sort of 'confrontation,'" Pyongyang reiterated later that day. "It will unhesitatingly confront anything, whether it is missile or nuclear weapon. It will certainly win in a war." Three days later, on February 1, Pyongyang hinted the use of nuclear weapons in a renewed threat to Tokyo. "North Korean-Japanese relations have deteriorated, and if this leads to a military confrontation, Japan itself will be the one destroyed," Pyongyang announced. Simultaneously, other North Korean media organs stressed the nuclear aspect of the Japanese rearmament. "Japanese reactionaries," Nodong Sinmun read, "are using the 'missile threat' as an excuse to arm their country with nuclear weapons, turn it into a military power and complete preparations for war." The warning concerning the inevitable destruction of Japan in such a war was reiterated as well.

Little wonder that observers of Korean affairs throughout the world are raising the alarm about the growing tension and mounting instability on the peninsula. In Seoul, ROK high-ranking military officials recently concluded that the DPRK "might stage widespread provocations in March or April [1999]." Russian experts also warn that the situation in Korea is becoming very explosive.

Kim Jong-Il, with his back against the wall, cannot find a way out of the DPRK's mounting crises, and is therefore prone to brinkmanship and crisis instigation. What makes the current crisis more dangerous, Moscow believes, is Pyongyang's conviction that Seoul's "sunshine policy" is actually a conspiracy aimed to destroy Juche and Kim Jong-Il's Administration. Significantly, none of the Russian experts has any indication or even hint whether Pyongyang has already decided, or will soon decide, to do anything. They fear that Pyongyang's belligerent brinkmanship will deteriorate out of control.

Meanwhile, the Clinton Administration's lack of resolve and repeated attempts to appease Pyongyang on issues where there can be no compromise acceptable to the US and its allies only embolden Kim Jong-Il to raise the ante in the DPRK's brinkmanship. For example, Pyongyang claimed on January 29, 1999, that Washington agreed to pay the DPRK for a one-off inspection of the suspected nuclear bunker the US had been demanding to inspect for several months now. "The United States admitted that the work of clearing up the 'suspicion' is an exception, and hinted that it was affirmatively taking into account [North Korea's] demand for compensation," Pyongyang announced.

Originally, the DPRK demanded $ 300-million for a one-time inspection but the US adamantly refused to pay as well as accept a one-time inspection. Now, official Pyongyang claims, Washington committed to come up with "compensation with 300 million US dollars in cash or with something equivalent to the amount of money."

The DPRK also claims the Clinton Administration agreed to delink the inspections from the 1994 nuclear deal which means that any discovery of the resumption of a North Korean military nuclear program outside the reactor in Yongbyon can no longer serve as a justification for stopping the flow of oil, food and building of the two light-water reactors. This constitutes a major shift in US policy which only encourages further North Korean brinkmanship and blackmail, increasing the threat of a new Korean war, either intentionally or by brinkmanship escalating out of control.

The DPRK-Iran Strategic Weapons Linkage: The Timing of the Emperor’s Clothes

The following report appeared in the 4-5/1998 edition of Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy

Analysis. By Gregory R. Copley, Editor, GIS. Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy, in February 1992, published a four-page article, detailing the status of Iran’s military nuclear capabilities. The article, citing unimpeachable primary sources, noted the acquisition by Iran from the former Soviet Union of three nuclear weapons. With as much detail as possible, but ensuring that sources were protected, this journal and this writer gave a reasoned and balanced report, avoiding any sensationalism. But the US State Department attacked this journal as being the "tool" of a foreign intelligence service. More than one indignant US Congressman, fully cognizant of the importance of the story, demanded a retraction of the attack by the State Department on Strategic Policy. The original attack made waves in The Washington Post; the retraction was a quiet letter to the Congress, never noted in the open media. And so the matter slept for six years.

Finally, in these past months, Israeli newspapers and the Knesset have "discovered" the same story and broadcast it as a "scoop", even calling Strategic Policy for verification, but failing to mention whence the story came. A number of US intelligence and diplomatic sources indicated, off the record, that they knew about the Iranian nukes all along, and validated the original sources used by Strategic Policy.

Why, then, did the US State Department attempt to discredit the original story? The answer is fairly straightforward: had the US Government acknowledged, at that time, the fact that Iran had become, technically, "a nuclear power", it would have been forced to take steps to force Iran to forsake such weapons. By pretending, in essence, "that the emperor's clothes were intact", the US could defer action.

The diplomatic scenery has changed. De facto acceptance of Iran's nuclear role seems to be the order of the day, just as acceptance of North Korea's undoubted military nuclear capability has become accepted. [Similarly, our many stories detailing the DPRK’s military nuclear capacity were also ignored or discredited by the US Government, only to be accepted later.] The West was simply not prepared, when the stories broke in Strategic Policy, to do anything about the nuclear proliferation; the "peace dividend" was politically more important.

What did the West, gain by delaying recognition of the nuclear realities?

It could be argued that the NATO and Japan bought time to prepare better strategies for containing Tehran's and Pyongyang's nuclear intentions. Or at least allowed them to drift into an era in which the "peace dividend" self-delusion of the immediate post-Soviet era had diminished. But the truth is that the West gained nothing by its delayed recognition. Iran and North Korea gained the breathing spaces they needed to consolidate their positions and even claim de facto Western acceptance of the status quo.

But even to imply that the West minimized the reports at the time for some coherent strategic reason is o give far to much credence to the vision of those, particularly in the Clinton Administration, responsible. In reality, they were not prepared to face the truth. So rather than face the truth, they attacked the messenger.

History is replete with such practices. The penalty for such folly, must always attach to the bureaucrats who refuse to deal with the truth.

Meanwhile, we pay tribute to the enormously courageous Iranian and Korean souls who risked their lives to get us the truth on the military and strategic situation in the early 1990s, and later.