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    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un guides the combat drill of the service personnel of the special operation battalion of KPA Unit 525 in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on December 11, 2016

    North Korea's Military Capabilities are Better Than We Thought, Experts Warn

    © REUTERS / KCNA
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    North Korea's weapons and military capabilities are more dangerous than previously thought, experts say, and the country is improving them across the board.

    Last week, it was reported that the country had developed an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear payload to the US mainland. Only a crucial insulation issue remained to be solved to make the device truly threatening.

    Now, a South Korean official has repeated the warning about the North's missile capabilities, a Korean think tank is reporting that their neighbor's ability to engage in special operations warfare has improved and North Korea has announced that it is developing a long-range aerial drone.

    Director General of the North Korean Nuclear Affairs Bureau in South Korea Lee Sang-haw said in a government briefing that the missiles could travel much farther than previously thought, and that "Europe is also within range," as well as other NATO countries. North Korea's KN-08 missile, which is under development, is expected to have a range of more than 7,500 miles, the Daily Star Online reported December 17.

    No more detail was offered. A senior South Korean official told the Daily Star that he couldn't go into precise detail about classified information. "There are different assessments of North Korea's ballistic missile capabilities, but what is for sure is as they repeat tests, they learn something important," he would say.

    Meanwhile, the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses (KIDA) has determined that North Korea has improved its special operations capacity over the years, it said December 18. According to testimony from North Korean defectors familiar with the country's military, Kim Jung-Un has not only been chasing nuclear dreams, but has been building up his conventional military forces, the Yonhap News Agency reports.

    This includes creating more special forces units and better training and equipping them, a source told Yonhap. Among them is a battalion specifically directed to attack the South Korean presidential office, a simulation of which was conducted last week. 

    Seoul is currently assessing North Korea's military capabilities across the board for a report to be submitted to its Defense Ministry and Joint Chiefs of Staff in the first half of next year, the source said.

    South Korea and Japan days ago had the first direct exchange of classified military intelligence on North Korea under a new intelligence-sharing pact that came into force last month. Insiders told Yonhap Japan may be interested in the new South Korean report.

    On the same day, Pyongyang announced that a long-endurance aerial drone it has been developing is in the process of flight testing at greater distances than the drones the country currently uses.

    A South Korean defense official told Yonhap that Seoul had detected many test flights by drones since early 2016. North Korea is estimated to have 300 observation drones and roughly 10 that are in some way armed. 

    North Korea this year has tested two nuclear devices and test launched dozens of missiles from varying terrain. Yohap reports that since 2000, 294 North Korean soldiers have defected to the South, 20 to 30 of whom have held command posts.

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    Tags:
    missile drills, special operation, Special Operations troops, military intelligence, drone, missile, military, Kim Jong-un, Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK), Japan, Seoul, Pyongyang, South Korea
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