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Pentagon worried by rapid N. Korean military buildup
SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM Friday, March 10, 2000
WASHINGTON -- Even as U.S.- North Korea talks continue in New York, Pentagon officials are expressing alarm at Pyongyang's huge military buildup.
U.S. Gen. Thomas Schwartz, commander of American forces in Korea, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Pyongyang is the "country most likely to involve the United States in a large-scale war." He said that despite a collapsing economy Pyongyang invests most of its resources in the military.
Schwartz said North Korea's military is the fifth largest in the world with one million soldiers, 1,600 aircraft and more than 800 naval ships and 12,000 self-propelled and towed weapon systems. He said Pyongyang's missile inventory contains more than 500 Scud missiles and that North Korea continues to produce and deploy medium-range No Dong missiles capable of striking United States bases in Japan.
Negotiations are being conducted to improve relations and ensure U.S. and other international aid to Pyongyang. The talks are taking place in New York and involve the first-ever visit of a high-ranking North Korean official to the United States.
U.S. officials have been skeptical of the North Korean bid for aid saying they are concerned that Pyongyang will find a way to divert Western assistance to help fund military programs. The United States, Japan and South Korea have pledged billions of dollars for North Korea to end its nuclear weapons programs.
"They show no intentions to reform," Schwartz told the Senate panel on Tuesday. "We must consider that the North Korean economy could break down completely, precipitating social chaos and threatening the existence of the regime itself. The situation on peninsula remains volatile, unpredictable, and dangerous."
The general said North Korean ruler Kim Chong Il "will clearly sacrifice popular welfare to continue his 'military first' policy." He said Pyongyang's military goal is to "reunify the peninsula by force" in a strategy based on surprise, a short war and the prevention of the arrival of U.S. reinforcements on the peninsula.
"In the last 12 months, North Korea has done more to arrest a decline in readiness and to improve its military capability than in the last five years combined," he said. "Highlighting these enhancements is an ambitious program to improve ground forces capabilities. A key component of this initiative involves the deployment of large numbers of long-range 240mm multiple rocket launcher systems and 170mm self-propelled guns to hardened sites located near the Demilitarized Zone."
He said North Korea has tested the Taepo Dong, with a range of 2,000 kilometers, and the Taepo Dong, with a range of more than 5,000 kilometers. The general said North Korea "is one of the world's largest missile proliferators and sells its missiles and technology to anyone with hard currency."
The talks in New York represent one aspect of North Korea's opening to the West, officials said. They said a delegation of four North Korean Foreign Ministry officials ended a visit to Canada as part of a renewed dialogue with Ottawa. In January, Italy established diplomatic relations with North Korea.
Friday, March 10, 2000
-- Pyongyang Pyrex (@ .), March 12, 2000
NO DONG MISSILES??? Now THAT is scary!!!
-- Uncle Deedah (email@example.com), March 12, 2000.
And, it looks like the North Koreans have tested two missiles, both named Dong but one with a longer range and presumably larger in both length and diameter. This leaves the No Dong as simply a runner-up. By the looks of this report, it appears we are developing a Dong gap. I'm outraged. What does Klinton intend to do solve this Dong problem...oh, I guess he already solved his Dong problem. Still, what are Gore and Bush's postion on this?
-- Jim Cooke (JJCooke@yahoo.com), March 13, 2000.
Their USUAL positions, of course!
-- Detractors (OfTheOval@Office.com), March 13, 2000.