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The North Korean military has established a new military brigade in North Pyongan Province which apparently specializes in backpack-sized tactical nuclear weapons. The brigade, which masquerades as a logging brigade, is reportedly part of the 8th Corps of the Chosun People's Army, which has jurisdiction over the province.
A South Korean source close to the North Korean military told The Daily NK on Friday, "Three new brigades have been stationed within the 8th Corps."
One of them, the source said, has been moved up to the border region from further south near the Daedong River to intensify security in the area. The second is Unit 125, a newly created special forces brigade, while the third is the tactical nuclear weapons brigade.
The source explained, “The logging brigade looks as if it has been established to supply lumber, but actually the troops are being trained in the use of tactical nuclear weapons.” Asked whether usable nuclear weapons may have been stationed with the brigade, the source answered, “It is certainly possible.”
Information has been around for some time suggesting that a tactical nuclear weapons unit had been moved into North Pyongan Province. A recent high level defector appeared to confirm the information during the process of questioning that North Korean refugees all undergo when they arrive in South Korea.
On a related note, Liberty Forward Party lawmaker Park Sun Young claimed last month during an a National Assembly hearing that North Korea is operating a new uranium enrichment facility in the same area, Dongchang County. Park said the facility was completed in 2006 and that the authorities have been developing uranium-based nuclear weapons there since 2007.
However, despite the seemingly alarming news, South Korean experts are cautious about suggesting North Korea has the technical ability required to equip the new brigade.
Professor Lee Eun Cheol of Seoul National University’s Department of Nuclear Engineering said, "I think for North Korea to construct a nuclear bomb small enough to be loaded into a backpack would not be that hard," he said. “But what would not be so easy is to transport the device, put it together in a short period of time and detonate it, and it would be even harder to do it by remote control.”
"Based on North Korea's past nuclear tests results, which were not particularly good, the technology itself does not seem to be so advanced. But if they have now brought out a 'backpack bomb' brigade, then it could be that that this technological problem has been solved to a considerable extent," he added.
South Korean intelligence officials say that intelligence regarding the existence of the brigade has been received, but that they are not in a position to confirm or deny it yet.