While North Korea continues to send military troops to typhoon-affected areas, the military unit in charge of various kinds of ballistic missiles, Korean People’s Army Strategic Force, was recently given additional manpower and even saw the deployment of new cutting-edge equipment, Daily NK has learned.

Although North Korea claims that the military is responding to national crises both at home and abroad, it appears that the country’s real focus remains on developing new strategic weapons such as intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). 

According to a military source Daily NK spoke with on Wednesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently promoted four units to the rank of regiment, including the Hanchon Rocket Management Unit (located in Jungsang County, South Pyongan Province), which is under the Strategic Force Command. The units have received additional manpower, materials and equipment, the source said. 

The source told Daily NK that the Hanchon Rocket Unit Management Command has also moved quickly to implement several measures following the change in the unit’s status. Specifically, it has begun shifting personnel and conducting inspections; started to deploy equipment and expand the areas patrolled by garrisons; begun reviewing the adoption of a general management system for allocating soldiers; and, started to formulate a plan for training newly-allocated soldiers.

According to the source, it was notable that the order to promote the units to regiment came at the same time that they had completed the deployment of “solid fuel launching systems.” In other words, the source’s report suggests that the military is working to quickly to implement systems capable of firing ICBMs using transporter erector launchers (TELs). 

Sino-North Korean relations ballistic
The August 26 edition of the Rodong Sinmun announced that North Korea had successfully launched a new kind of rocket. / Image: Rodong Sinmun

“The promoted units were also allocated several dozen crawler-type mobile launch vehicles capable of firing missiles,” the source said. “This enables missiles to be launched any time from any location, so those at the top believe it will be difficult for US or South Korean puppet forces to detect [launches] in advance.” 

The development of solid fuel propulsion systems would be impossible without the requisite facilities in the defense industry and either the production or import of heavy metals such as aluminium. This suggests that even in the face of international sanctions, COVID-19 and various natural disasters, the North Korean leadership remains unwilling to abandon its goal of strengthening the Strategic Force.

It seems that [the regime] will continue to expand and develop the military strength of the Strategic Force irrespective of trouble at home or abroad,” the source explained. “I know that science and technology professionals have been excluded from efforts to restore flood damage, and a plan has been made to advance technological progress as quickly as possible.” 

The Strategic Force first attracted attention from the international community when it was unveiled in March 2012 and hailed as “the pride and strength of our Motherland.” The number of troops affiliated with the force has continued to grow since then and currently stands at approximately 26,000 soldiers (compared to 10,000 in 2012, right after the force was given its current name). 

North Korea’s leadership is also gradually expanding the number of missiles deployed into the field. The source noted that North Korea has completed a system that can launch medium-range missiles (including Scuds, Rodongs, Musudans and Taepodongs) and long-range missiles (Hwasongs and Pukkuksongs). 

While ICBMs capable of attacking the US mainland are still not “fully” finished, the regime’s capabilities on this front are gradually progressing through steady experimentation on technical issues, the source concluded. 

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Jeong Tae Joo is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. He focuses on North Korean military matters. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.