China ‘crippled CIA operations, killed informants’: New York Times

A US newspaper has reported that the Chinese government “systematically dismantled” the work of US spies in China from 2010 to 2012. Top US officials have said the intelligence breach was one of the worst in decades.

China Peking - Tiananmen Square (Getty Images/L. Zhang)

China killed or imprisoned as many as 20 US intelligence sources from 2010 to 2012 as a network of spies that had taken years to build was unwound, The New York Times reported on Saturday.

The newspaper described what it called a massive intelligence breach responsible for impeding US spying operations in the communist state for several years.

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Cyberspying topic of Chinese visit

CIA mole?

The Times said investigators are split over whether a mole within the CIA betrayed the sources, or whether the Chinese hacked the intelligence agency’s covert communications system. Others think the breach could have been the result of careless spy work.

The newspaper cited 10 current and former American officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity and described how Beijing systematically dismantled the CIA’s spying efforts.

They said the breach was a severe setback for the US intelligence network that had been working at its highest level in years. Almost every employee of the US embassy in Beijing was investigated at one point, the Times reported.

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At least a dozen CIA sources killed

The CIA had been receiving high-quality information about the Chinese government until 2010, when the data began to dry up.

The CIA sources began disappearing in early 2011, the paper said.

The Times said at least a dozen CIA sources were killed, including one who was shot in front of colleagues in a clear warning to anyone else who might be spying. Several others were jailed.

The investigation ultimately centered on a former CIA operative who worked in a division overseeing China, the newspaper said, but there was not enough evidence to arrest him. He is now living in another Asian country and has been questioned.

The breach was considered particularly damaging, with the number of assets lost rivaling those in the Soviet Union and Russia who perished after information was passed to Moscow by spies Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, the report said.

Ames was active as a spy in the 1980s and Hanssen from 1979 to 2001.

By 2013, the FBI and CIA concluded that China no longer had the ability to identify American agents, the Times said.

US intelligence agencies have since been trying to rebuild their spy network in the country.

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mm/cmk (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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Russia steps up North Korea support to constrain US

In spite of international sanctions on North Korea’s communist regime, Russia has been increasing fuel exports to Pyongyang and filling in the supply gap created by China halting trade. Julian Ryall reports.

Russland Militärparade in Moskau (Reuters/S. Karpukhin)

Despite efforts by the United Nations to impose isolating sanctions on North Korea in response to the country’s continued development of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles, trade between Russia and North Korea soared more than 85 percent in the first four months of the year.

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Citing Russian customs data, the Voice of America broadcaster has reported that bilateral trade climbed to $31.83 million (29 million euros) in the January-March quarter, with the vast majority being energy products going over the border into the North.

This included $22 million worth of coal, lignite with a value of around $4.7 million, and oil estimated at $1.2 million. In return, North Korean exports to Russia were estimated to be worth $420,000. The most significant exports were chemicals and – curiously – wind instruments.

China trade falls

In contrast, North Korea’s trade with China, traditionally its most important economic partner, has plummeted. Pyongyang’s exports of coal to China in March came to 6,342 tons, a fraction of the 1.44 million tons sent to China in January, with an estimated value of $126.39 million. Similarly, Beijing has stopped supplying critically-needed fuel oil to the North, a clear demonstration of China’s displeasure at North Korea’s ongoing weapons tests.

The release of the figures detailing Russia’s increased trade with North Korea coincide with President Vladimir Putin’s statement on Monday that Pyongyang’s latest missile launch was “dangerous” – but, he added, “We must stop intimidating North Korea and find a peaceful solution to this problem.”

Read more: North Korea claims successful test of new rocket able to carry nuclear warhead

James Brown, an associate professor of international relations at Tokyo campus of Temple University, believes some of the cross-border trade may be “economic opportunism” but the motivation for the vast majority of it is geopolitical.

“Russia is very worried about the isolation of North Korea and believes that makes the situation dangerous as the US is taking a confrontational approach,” he told DW.

“Moscow’s position is that pressure on the North has not worked and has in fact caused Pyongyang to react because it feels threatened,” he said. “So instead of isolation, which is not working, Russia is proposing engagement.”

Nordkorea Hwasong-12 (Mars-12) Raketentest (Reuters/KCNA)The UN condemned North Korea’s missile test and vowed new sanctions

New ferry route

The most recent example of this support for Pyongyang is the plan to open a ferry route between North Korea and the Russian Far East port of Vladivostok, although the proposal has been delayed by strong protests from Japan.

Read more: North Korea builds closer ties with fellow outcast Russia

In 2014, Russia announced that it was canceling $10 billion of North Korea’s $11 billion in Soviet-era debt and that the remaining $1 billion would be invested back into the country. Russian investors also agreed to sink $25 billion into the North’s dilapidated railway system, while more would go into basic infrastructure. The two governments also announced that Russia would rebuild the North’s power grid, while the two countries would develop the ice-free port of Rason for exports of Russian coal.

In total, Russia planned to increase bilateral trade almost ten-fold to $1 billion by 2020, and that does not appear to have been hampered by more recent UN sanctions.

But Putin is also motivated by security concerns in Russia’s Far East, Brown said.

“Moscow has always been worried that the defensive missile systems that the US is deploying in the region – the THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea and now Japan is discussing having Aegis Ashore – are more directed at its interests than North Korea,” he said.

Daniel Pinkston, a professor of international relations at the Seoul campus of Troy University, believes that Putin – who is at odds with the international community over the Ukraine conflict and has been accused of meddling in a number of elections, including those in the US and France – may be forging closer ties with Pyongyang to sow further disarray among his perceived enemies.

Watch video00:33

North Korea launches ballistic missile

‘Slash-and-burn approach’

“Putin seems to have adopted a slash-and-burn approach to the liberal international order, so anything that serves to undermine institutions such as NATO, the European Union or democracy in general is fair game,” Pinkston said. “He is intent on creating instability in a way that serves Russian interests and this sort of multi-front, hybrid war serves to undermine the US and its allies.”

“North Korea fits neatly into that agenda because it causes problems for Washington, keeps the US tied down, drains its resources and causes friction with allies in the region.”

Pinkston points out that playing neighboring nations off one other for their respective favors is not a new North Korean tactic. It has manipulated China and Russia for its own ends in the past.

“That sort of back-and-forth was easier to pull off in the Cold War, but they seem to be trying to capitalize on their relations with Russia now that China has become more distant,” the expert underlined. “And I think it is clear that North Korea will take whatever it can get in terms of political, diplomatic or military support, as well as resources.”

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China’s silky threat to American leadership

John Moody

This weekend, while the Sunday talk shows obsess about Trump, Comey and secret recordings, a top-level gathering in China will kick off the biggest challenge ever to America’s place in the world economy: the creation of a 21st Century version of the ancient Silk Road travelled by Marco Polo.

President Xi Jinping will host the so-called Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Summit. If the name sounds like a convention of car parts manufacturers, think again.  The BRI is Xi’s $1 trillion – yes, with a T — plan to build state of the art roads, ports, pipelines and airports that will link China to 110 countries around the world and make Beijing the epicenter of world trade for decades to come.

Russia’s Vladimir Putin thinks the BRI is important enough for him to attend. So do the leaders of Turkey, Pakistan, the Philippines and 25 other countries, most of them with developing economies. The United States, trapped in political navel-gazing, could only ante up an assistant to the president.

For Xi, the initiative is a brazen attempt to seize worldwide economic leadership from the United States. With official Washington bogged down on President Trump’s tweets and his relationship with Russia, Xi sees an opportunity to bind emerging trade partners to him by offering them access to China’s vast consumer market.

“Xi is offering a lot of money and infrastructure to a lot of recipient countries who have a pressing need for their economies to be modernized,” says Sourabh Gupta, a senior fellow at the Institute for China-America studies. “There are real political, economic and strategic goals at stake. It is China effectively applying soft power in a very visible way. It wants to become what the United States has been until now – the leader of the world economy.”

There is, of course, a catch: Xi will ask the heads of state that he is wining and dining to sign a joint communique endorsing Beijing’s claims that Taiwan is part of China, and that it has legitimate territorial rights in the South China Sea.

Among the massive infrastructure projects being offered to potential partners, China wants to build a port in Pakistan, complete a China-to-Myanmar pipeline, giving it access to Middle East crude oil, and dredge and deepen the historic Greek port of Piraeus.

The stakes for Xi are high. China’s economic growth has been slowing. Its vassal state, North Korea, is increasingly rebellious, and banks and bond markets are showing signs of stress.

Xi hopes the conference will cement his position as a global leader in advance of the 19th congress of the Communist Party, which he heads. The summit’s slogan is “One Belt, One Road.” For Xi, that means showing that the rest of the world is girded to China, and that all roads lead to Beijing.

John Moody is Executive Vice President, Executive Editor for Fox News. A former Rome bureau chief for Time magazine, he is the author of four books including “Pope John Paul II : Biography.

China moves cutting-edge AWACS planes near disputed S. China Sea islands – media

China moves cutting-edge AWACS planes near disputed S. China Sea islands – media
The Chinese military has deployed its latest airborne early warning and control aircraft to an air base in the vicinity of the contested South China Sea islands, according to Defense News, citing satellite imagery.

The imagery provided by DigitalGlobe company shows a number of Shaanxi KJ-500 and KJ-200 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft at the Jialaishi Air Base in the northern part of China’s Hainan island, Defense News reported on Friday.

According to the news outlet, this is the first time China has stationed its state-of-the-art KJ-500 aircraft in Hainan.

The KJ-500, bearing a distinctive radar antenna over the fuselage, is equipped with a “dorsal radar dish mounting a phased array radar with three fixed arrays angled at 120 degrees relative to each other for all-round coverage.”

The new aircraft are expected to replace the ageing KJ-200s currently in service with the Chinese military. The large radar array provides for better situation awareness and allows guidance and control of enemy and friendly aircraft, while smaller radars installed on the nose and rear fuselage ensure additional coverage.

KJ-500s entered service with the Chinese Air Force in late 2014 or early 2015, Defense News reports, with six KJ-500s known to have been delivered to the military as of January 2017, including at least two for the Navy.

The aircraft deployed in Hainan come from two Air Force regiments tasked with carrying out special missions. The detachments usually operate from Lingshui on the southeastern part of Hainan.

Jialaishi is one of three major Chinese Navy air bases in Hainan, which is located in the northern part of the South China Sea and its disputed islands.

While Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and other nations all claim parts of the South China Sea as their own, China says that most of it has been within its territory for centuries.

Tensions have been running high in the region, with claimants moving military assets closer to the disputed islands. Over the past few years, China has built a number of military installations, airfields, radars, and anti-aircraft systems covering a sizeable area of the South China Sea.

Though Beijing says that these facilities are for civilian purposes only, the US and its regional allies are stepping up their military presence off Chinese waters. The build-up includes regular aerial and maritime patrols, as well as massive military exercises, to ensure what Washington calls “freedom of navigation.”

Earlier on Thursday, the Philippines moved troops and equipment to a disputed island in the South China Sea which is claimed by both Manila and Beijing, according to Lt. Gen. Raul del Rosario, head of the Philippines military’s Western Command. Troops and materiel arrived at Pag-asa Island last week – a move which triggered a harsh response from China.

One day earlier, a top US Navy commander said American vessels will continue to operate in the area regardless of Beijing’s reaction. “US forces operate in the Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea,” US Navy Commander Gary Ross told the South China Morning Post newspaper in an email.

North Korea’s mystery islands: Man-made keys could be new nuclear launch sites

North Korea is at it again. Or rather, it is continuing what it started five years ago.

Artificial islands have been discovered surrounding Sohae Satellite Launching Station, a missile development and testing site roughly 70 miles northwest of Pyongyang. Satellite images suggest the islands are home to military installations and have been under development for at least five years.

While their purpose is unknown, suspicions are high that the islands could be used to launch missiles. Those speculations are not far off the mark, according to Gordon Chang, author of “Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World.”

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“North Korea is never up to any good,” Chang said in an emailed statement to Fox News. “The new facilities, whatever their purpose, will be used for evil deeds, mischief, or troublemaking of some sort.”

“My sense is that the facilities on the new islands will be used for missile launches of some kind, especially because they are near Sohae.”

North Korea could just be following in its neighbor China’s footsteps. In recent years, China has reportedly been stocking its disputed man-made islands with missiles.

The missile theory is being rebuffed by some. North Korea expert and political science professor Dr. Bruce Bechtol does not think the islands deserve so much focus.

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“As far as the islands being something that could present a real imminent threat to the U.S. or South Korea,” he said, “I’m just not seeing it.”

According to Bechtol, North Korea has far stealthier stockpiles than what could be placed on islands easily monitored via satellite.

“The land mass of those islands is too small to move around missiles,” he said. “It’s interesting that they’re developing these islands, but they’re probably mostly for civilian use.”

The islands could very well be used agriculturally, which could benefit North Korea since the country has struggled to feed its citizens.

“They [North Korea] ruined a lot of their soil in the 80s and 90s. These islands have the potential to really help them out through possible fish farms or oyster farms,” Bechtol stated.

Or, maybe the country has two goals in mind.

“The North Koreans build just about everything for dual purpose,” Steve Sin, a researcher on unconventional weapons and technology at the University of Maryland, told the Los Angeles Times. “So, building something that is of military use on an agricultural project is certainly within its usual pattern.”

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North Korea crisis: Which country has the strongest military in the region?

Tensions continue to run high on the Korean Peninsula as North Korea’s bellicose posture makes its neighbors increasingly nervous. DW takes a look at the military strengths of the main players in the region.

Südkorea TV Übertragung Raketentest in Nordkora (Getty Images/AFP/J. Yeon-Je)

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Aggressive rhetoric and actions on the Korean Peninsula over the past several months have raised concerns about a potential conflagration. The US government under President Donald Trump has put an end to the “strategic patience” policy pursued by the previous Barack Obama administration. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has stressed that the military option remains on the table. And this month, Washington has once again tightened its already stringent sanctions against the reclusive regime in Pyongyang.

Read more: Is a second Korean War imminent? 

China, regarded as the North’s only ally, continues to push for all sides to find a diplomatic solution to the problem. But Beijing, like Washington, has increased the pressure on Pyongyang by enforcing the sanctions regime more tightly, for instance, by halting coal imports from the North.

The growing international calls seem to have made little impact on the North. Kim Jong Un’s regime has increased the pace of nuclear and missile tests over the past year. Experts observe increased activity at the Punggye-ri atomic site hinting at a potential nuclear test soon. Official statements in North Korea’s state media stress the country’s readiness to wage a “total war” at any moment.

Many doubt the ability of the international community to persuade the regime to leave its present course, meaning militarization in the region is unlikely to subside.

High militarization in North Korea

Both North and South Korea have been divided by the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. The conflict back then ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty, and the DMZ remains one of the most heavily fortified places on Earth, where two of the world’s largest militaries stay prepared for a confrontation.

According to an index developed by the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC), a German NGO, South Korea is one of the most militarized nations in the world. It ranks sixth worldwide on the index, which was last updated in 2016.

North Korea is not ranked in the index due to the difficulty in acquiring and assessing information related to its military. But it’s assumed by observers like BICC’s Marius Bales that “there is a high degree of militarization” in North Korean society as well. “This is obvious from the fact that they have a 1.2-million strong military for some 24 million inhabitants.”

Allies for North and South

The two highly armed Koreas are each backed by countries that have a historic geopolitical rivalry with each other. Standing behind the the North, it’s the People’s Republic of China, while on the side of the South, it’s the US. The US-South Korean relationship was sealed in 1953 by a military alliance. In 1961, the North signed a friendship treaty with China and the former Soviet Union including the provision of military and economic aid.

Watch video01:47

Japan joins military build-up off Koreas

Although Russia later abrogated the military assistance pact, China has maintained it. But Beijing has been increasingly vocal in its call for North Korea to back down from its aggressive posture. China’s “Global Times” newspaper, known for its nationalist commentary, has been blistering in its criticism of North Korea, accusing it of destabilizing the region and calling for a halt to its nuclear program.

Another player in the region, Japan, feels threatened by North Korea. While Tokyo’s position in the region is underpinned by its special relationship with the US, its relations with countries like South Korea and China are burdened by its colonial past and World War II legacy.

Quantity vs. quality

One way of showing the military balance of power in the region is by comparing the number of people in the armed forces in each country, as well as the size and scope of the armaments they possess. However, such an approach is mired in imperfections, and the numbers presented have to be treated with some caution.

An annual report on the subject entitled “The Military Balance,” published by the UK-based think tank International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), is considered to be authoritative. It extensively documents the procurement of weapons by various militaries.

Infografik Militärisches Kräfteverhältnis in Ostasien ENG

The figures are partly based on the official data supplied by the countries to international organizations like the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms. But the IISS neither reveals all the sources of its information nor follows a uniform method. It’s unclear, for instance, how accurate statistics on North Korea are as the country doesn’t release any official data.

There is no other alternative, though, says BICC expert Bales. “The Military Balance is the best as well as the only source in this field.”

Still, the expert underlined that the figures represent only the quantity of weapons and not their quality. For example, Bales points out that one heavy tank cannot be considered to be exactly equal in its capabilities to another heavy tank. “A Soviet T-62 tank of the North Korean Army from the late 1960s cannot be on an equal footing with a South Korean K2 Black Panther tank from 2013.”

The manner in which the comparative strengths of militaries were assessed in the 19th and early 20th centuries has become obsolete, experts say.

“Modern warfare and modern weapon systems can’t be compared like that,” Bales stressed, because today we don’t need tanks in equal number to destroy enemy tanks, but can also use drones, helicopters and other aircraft to do that task.

Also, the figures do not show details of other critical resources that are required to operate the weapons. North Korea, for instance, suffers from an acute fuel shortage, hindering its ability to operate training aircraft. In the case of North Korea, Bales said, “the size of the military stands in contrast to its quality. Its air force, in particular, is obsolete, with its most modern aircraft dating back to the 1980s.”

South Korea, on the other hand, is equipped with state-of-the-art military gear, thanks largely to weapons deliveries from the US and Germany.

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Trump, Kim step up saber-rattling competition

What the figures additionally show is what areas each country’s military focused on. Being an island nation, Japan has paid attention to strengthening the capabilities of its navy and air force. In the Koreas, however, the army occupies the central role.

The relatively high number of heavy tanks and artillery guns in both those countries show that their armies are designed for large field battles and the defense of their borders. The large number of North Korean submarines is due to their high deterrent potential. And the figures also prove all the countries’ determination to defend themselves militarily.

Technological gap

Still, all this would be meaningless when compared to the mighty US military machine.

A look at the country’s strategic weapons, including long-range missiles and nuclear warheads, makes it clear immediately. China and the US have such capabilities, unlike South Korea and Japan.

North Korea is striving hard to acquire them, but has faced daunting challenges in developing reliable long-range missiles. The US’ weapons technology is so far advanced that North Korea hardly has any chance of competing with it on a technological level, observers reckon.

“With all the technical considerations, however, one should not forget the mutual vulnerability of North and South Korea,” says BICC analyst Bale.

About 70 percent of North Korea’s ground troops are stationed along the border. And South Korea’s bustling capital, Seoul, is just 50 kilometers away from the frontier. “Even with obsolete technology, a devastating attack on South Korea can be carried out with the large number of tanks, artillery and armored personnel carriers.”

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North Korea crisis: Which country has the strongest military in the region?

Tensions continue to run high on the Korean Peninsula as North Korea’s bellicose posture makes its neighbors increasingly nervous. DW takes a look at the military strengths of the main players in the region.

Südkorea TV Übertragung Raketentest in Nordkora (Getty Images/AFP/J. Yeon-Je)

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The presidents of China and South Korea have agreed they want North Korea to move away from its agenda of atomic antagonism. A US missile-defense system deployed on the peninsula was also a topic of conversation. (11.05.2017)

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Aggressive rhetoric and actions on the Korean Peninsula over the past several months have raised concerns about a potential conflagration. The US government under President Donald Trump has put an end to the “strategic patience” policy pursued by the previous Barack Obama administration. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has stressed that the military option remains on the table. And this month, Washington has once again tightened its already stringent sanctions against the reclusive regime in Pyongyang.

Read more: Is a second Korean War imminent? 

China, regarded as the North’s only ally, continues to push for all sides to find a diplomatic solution to the problem. But Beijing, like Washington, has increased the pressure on Pyongyang by enforcing the sanctions regime more tightly, for instance, by halting coal imports from the North.

The growing international calls seem to have made little impact on the North. Kim Jong Un’s regime has increased the pace of nuclear and missile tests over the past year. Experts observe increased activity at the Punggye-ri atomic site hinting at a potential nuclear test soon. Official statements in North Korea’s state media stress the country’s readiness to wage a “total war” at any moment.

Many doubt the ability of the international community to persuade the regime to leave its present course, meaning militarization in the region is unlikely to subside.

High militarization in North Korea

Both North and South Korea have been divided by the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. The conflict back then ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty, and the DMZ remains one of the most heavily fortified places on Earth, where two of the world’s largest militaries stay prepared for a confrontation.

According to an index developed by the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC), a German NGO, South Korea is one of the most militarized nations in the world. It ranks sixth worldwide on the index, which was last updated in 2016.

North Korea is not ranked in the index due to the difficulty in acquiring and assessing information related to its military. But it’s assumed by observers like BICC’s Marius Bales that “there is a high degree of militarization” in North Korean society as well. “This is obvious from the fact that they have a 1.2-million strong military for some 24 million inhabitants.”

Allies for North and South

The two highly armed Koreas are each backed by countries that have a historic geopolitical rivalry with each other. Standing behind the the North, it’s the People’s Republic of China, while on the side of the South, it’s the US. The US-South Korean relationship was sealed in 1953 by a military alliance. In 1961, the North signed a friendship treaty with China and the former Soviet Union including the provision of military and economic aid.

Watch video01:47

Japan joins military build-up off Koreas

Although Russia later abrogated the military assistance pact, China has maintained it. But Beijing has been increasingly vocal in its call for North Korea to back down from its aggressive posture. China’s “Global Times” newspaper, known for its nationalist commentary, has been blistering in its criticism of North Korea, accusing it of destabilizing the region and calling for a halt to its nuclear program.

Another player in the region, Japan, feels threatened by North Korea. While Tokyo’s position in the region is underpinned by its special relationship with the US, its relations with countries like South Korea and China are burdened by its colonial past and World War II legacy.

Quantity vs. quality

One way of showing the military balance of power in the region is by comparing the number of people in the armed forces in each country, as well as the size and scope of the armaments they possess. However, such an approach is mired in imperfections, and the numbers presented have to be treated with some caution.

An annual report on the subject entitled “The Military Balance,” published by the UK-based think tank International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), is considered to be authoritative. It extensively documents the procurement of weapons by various militaries.

Infografik Militärisches Kräfteverhältnis in Ostasien ENG

The figures are partly based on the official data supplied by the countries to international organizations like the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms. But the IISS neither reveals all the sources of its information nor follows a uniform method. It’s unclear, for instance, how accurate statistics on North Korea are as the country doesn’t release any official data.

There is no other alternative, though, says BICC expert Bales. “The Military Balance is the best as well as the only source in this field.”

Still, the expert underlined that the figures represent only the quantity of weapons and not their quality. For example, Bales points out that one heavy tank cannot be considered to be exactly equal in its capabilities to another heavy tank. “A Soviet T-62 tank of the North Korean Army from the late 1960s cannot be on an equal footing with a South Korean K2 Black Panther tank from 2013.”

The manner in which the comparative strengths of militaries were assessed in the 19th and early 20th centuries has become obsolete, experts say.

“Modern warfare and modern weapon systems can’t be compared like that,” Bales stressed, because today we don’t need tanks in equal number to destroy enemy tanks, but can also use drones, helicopters and other aircraft to do that task.

Also, the figures do not show details of other critical resources that are required to operate the weapons. North Korea, for instance, suffers from an acute fuel shortage, hindering its ability to operate training aircraft. In the case of North Korea, Bales said, “the size of the military stands in contrast to its quality. Its air force, in particular, is obsolete, with its most modern aircraft dating back to the 1980s.”

South Korea, on the other hand, is equipped with state-of-the-art military gear, thanks largely to weapons deliveries from the US and Germany.

Watch video01:56

Trump, Kim step up saber-rattling competition

What the figures additionally show is what areas each country’s military focused on. Being an island nation, Japan has paid attention to strengthening the capabilities of its navy and air force. In the Koreas, however, the army occupies the central role.

The relatively high number of heavy tanks and artillery guns in both those countries show that their armies are designed for large field battles and the defense of their borders. The large number of North Korean submarines is due to their high deterrent potential. And the figures also prove all the countries’ determination to defend themselves militarily.

Technological gap

Still, all this would be meaningless when compared to the mighty US military machine.

A look at the country’s strategic weapons, including long-range missiles and nuclear warheads, makes it clear immediately. China and the US have such capabilities, unlike South Korea and Japan.

North Korea is striving hard to acquire them, but has faced daunting challenges in developing reliable long-range missiles. The US’ weapons technology is so far advanced that North Korea hardly has any chance of competing with it on a technological level, observers reckon.

“With all the technical considerations, however, one should not forget the mutual vulnerability of North and South Korea,” says BICC analyst Bale.

About 70 percent of North Korea’s ground troops are stationed along the border. And South Korea’s bustling capital, Seoul, is just 50 kilometers away from the frontier. “Even with obsolete technology, a devastating attack on South Korea can be carried out with the large number of tanks, artillery and armored personnel carriers.”

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