North Korea’s long-range artillery has little value in wartime, a defector with expertise in North Korean defense capabilities told a South Korean paper.
The unnamed defector, identified as having been involved in supervising the North Korean defense industry, told the Weekly Donga that its artillery forces have flaws so serious that the leaders have had to reshuffle the military’s entire structure with the weapons of mass destruction at its center.
“The Ministry of People’s Armed Forces ran a simulation in the early 2000s and it concluded that it is impossible for them to turn Seoul into a ‘sea of fire,'” the defector said, referring an oft-repeated North Korean threat.
Mostly comprised of 170mm self-propelled artillery and 240mm multiple-launch rocket systems, the Korean People’s Army’s long-range artillery forces have often been seen as a major threat to Seoul.
However, the defector criticized the South Korean military’s assessment of the North’s artillery threat as nonsensical, especially regarding the 170mms deployed to the front line along the Military Demarcation Line.
“North Korea categorized them as being of no value for actual battle in the mid-2000s. They welded two barrels into one in order to extend its range but its accuracy has degraded significantly since North Korea’s precision industry seriously lagged behind,” he was quoted as saying.
The relatively new 300mm multiple launch rocket systems are not an exception, according to him.
“Their development began in the early 2000s due to the strong push from Ri Yong Ho, then-commander of the Pyongyang Defense Command. That the military needs to fill the gap between artillery, which has its range limited within 50km, and missiles, which have their range from 300km or further was his argument,” he was quoted as saying.
300mms were first developed in China. Kim Jong Il asked China for cooperative manufacturing of these several times but was denied, so North Korea was on its own with the blueprints, he said.
“The 2nd Economy Committee (North Korea’s defense industry supervisor) opposed its development, since, in a nutshell, its destructive power was too poor for the development cost. … they raised the amount of propellant at the expense of the size of the warhead, which limited its destructive power,” the defector said.
The artillery forces would more likely end up as disposable in the first few hours of battle, he concluded.
“It is highly unlikely that military headquarters would fall down with destructive power as weak as the 300mms’,” he was quoted as saying.
One military expert was very critical of the defector’s claim.
“I would need to see more than one source to take such an outlandish and unproven claim seriously,” Angelo State University professor and former intelligence officer Bruce Bechtol told NK News.
“Even if these systems were only fired once—all of them—they would be quite effective. Up to 20 percent of them are assessed to be equipped with chemical munitions, and that will not only cause casualties in places like Seoul, it will create panic,” he said.
However, another military expert agrees with the defector’s revelation.
“The KPA lags seriously behind when it comes to weather research,” Korea Defense & Security Forum fellow Kim Min-seok told NK News. “It’s not likely they can manage to maximize the efficiency of chemical munitions.”
“It seems to me that the development of 300mm MRL, in the light of his revelation, begun by the field army officers who felt threatened by the missile officers’ monopoly on long-range strike weaponry.”
According to Kim, 300mms were developed in China and the former Soviet Union for exactly the same reason.
“A truck to carry the 300mm launcher has to be imported since North Korea lacks the capability to build one itself. And it’s just as big as the one that carries WMDs like Scud. Thus, in the North Korean point of view, one more 300mm means one less missile carrier truck,” he said.
“Making bad choices, including this 300mm MRL, in developing conventional weaponry has limited North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities,” he said.
Join the influential community of members who rely on NK News original news and in-depth reporting.
Subscribe to read the remaining 682 words of this article.