Pyongyang is piling up missiles, sources say

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Pyongyang is piling up missiles, sources say

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered his military to fortify the country with missiles in late 2013 in case war broke out, multiple sources exclusively told the JoongAng Ilbo.

According to the sources, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity, the North possesses many more missiles than known by the U.S. and South Korea, numbering in the thousands.

“Kim gave an order to fortify the country with missiles in late 2013,” said a former North Korean senior official who described himself having in-depth knowledge of the North’s missile capability and its management. “As a result, missiles are being dispatched to military units nationwide.”

The revelation, which can’t be verified given the secretive nature of the North Korean regime, has led to speculation that the North was arming itself in a way that it could still fire missiles even when some of its missile sites come under attack.

North Korea fired a Rodong missile Tuesday from Hwangju County, North Hwanghae Province, which is not far from the inter-Korea border. To the knowledge of South Korean defense officials, the North deploys long-range Rodong missiles in far-flung northern region such as Yanggang Province near China while deploying shorter range scuds in areas ranging from North Pyongyan Province to Kangwon Province. For medium range Musudan missiles, the North deploys them in areas covering South Pyongyan Province and South Hamgyong Province.

The fact that the North fired a Rodong missile from North Hwanghae Province signaled a shift in its missile management.

“It is said inside the North that it has nearly 50 nuclear warheads and thousands of missiles,” another source said.

The fact that the North discloses information about its missiles during Kim Jong-un’s visits to military sites suggests that Pyongyang does not view missiles as classified information anymore

A defector who worked at a state agency similar to South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration said Pyongyang was capable of producing missile parts at 100 different sites in the country.

“Final assembly lines to put together these parts to produce missiles are also scattered around the country in case of war,” the defector said, “North Korea has the capacity to produce between 50 to 100 missiles a year.”

Defense Minister Han Min-koo recently assessed the North to have about 1,000 missiles in its stockpile, a figure that could turn out to be much lower than the actual number of missiles in light of the defector’s account.

A defense ministry official refuted the account of the North having nearly 50 nuclear warheads, although he acknowledged the North’s nuclear capability had “progressed.”

“While the North’s nuclear capability had progressed considerably, it is too early to say it indeed has nuclear warheads now,” said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

BY JEONG YONG-SOO, KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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