How poverty-stricken North Korea is funding its experiments

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea’s recent barrage of missile tests, including Wednesday’s record of at least 23 launches, raises a key question about its weapons program: The poor nation is seemingly at an end. How will you pay for tests without

Some experts say it could cost between $2 million and $10 million per North Korean launch, but given North Korea’s highly secretive nature, there’s no way to get an accurate estimate. Some experts say no. They say North Korea likely manufactures weapons at a much lower cost than other countries because of free labor and possible clandestine support from China and Russia.

Either way, there is no sign that North Korea’s economic woes are delaying its nuclear tests. Instead, it shows that Chairman Kim Jong-un is determined to demonstrate the ability to launch nuclear strikes against South Korea and the United States in order to win his future concessions.

Let’s take a look at the financial side of North Korea’s missile tests.


How much does each test cost?

North Korea fired at least 23 missiles on Wednesday and another six on Thursday. Many of them were nuclear-capable ballistic missiles designed to destroy South Korean and US targets.

They could include the developing Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile, surface-to-air missiles, and various short-range ballistic missiles. North Korea is known for its frequent missile tests, but has never launched so many in a single day.

Soo Kim, a security analyst at the California-based RAND Corporation, said the cost of a North Korean missile test could range from a few million dollars to $10 million, which is similar to other countries. He said it would be lower than the experiment. It’s cheap.

Bruce Bennett, another RAND Corporation expert, told Radio Free Asia that Wednesday’s short-range missiles cost $2 million to $3 million each, with a total cost of $50 million to $75 million for the day. RFA said the largest estimate is the amount North Korea spent in 2019 importing rice from China to make up for that year’s crop shortage.

Lee Il-woo, an expert on South Korea’s South Korean Defense Network, said it was impossible for an outsider to accurately estimate the cost of producing weapons in North Korea. “There is no way to know how much North Korea is producing a particular weapon part and how much it costs. I can’t,” he said.

A report submitted to the office of South Korean lawmaker Shin Won-shik in September estimated that North Korea has spent up to $1.6 billion on its nuclear program since the 1970s, according to Seoul’s state-run South Korean Institute for Defense Analysis. said that The report used an analysis of other countries’ nuclear programs. Some observers warned against using foreign data because the North Korean government would not have to pay for labor or land.


How will the launch be funded?

Although the economic situation in North Korea has deteriorated due to the effects of the new coronavirus, there have been no reports of serious social unrest or food shortages.

Its weapons development is driven by a Soviet-style party-military complex, in which the party leadership surrounding Kim Jong-un has complete control over the defense industry and faces few budgetary constraints to focus state resources on weapons development. Yes, said Hong Min. Korea Unification Institute in Seoul.

In addition to the record number of missile tests this year, there are also signs that North Korea is expanding its ammunition facilities as it may mass-produce newly developed weapons, Hong said. .

RAND Corporation analyst Su Kim said it was important to track how North Korea is funding its weapons program despite US-led economic sanctions and its own isolation. Stated.

“This is where sanctions-violating activity comes into play, including (North Korea’s) recent forays into cybercrime and cryptocurrency hacking,” she said. “And of course, having smart partners in Beijing and Moscow to help with sanctions violations also helps the regime’s weapons development thrive.”

Hong said Russia’s war in Ukraine appeared to have opened up new opportunities for North Korea amid US accusations that North Korea was secretly shipping a “significant” number of artillery shells to Russia. said. In return, Hong said, North Korea might ask for Russian technology transfers and supplies needed to expand its military capabilities.


What will North Korea get?

North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests each provide scientists with “valuable data” on weapons development and also help solidify Kim Jong-un’s leadership while destabilizing the South Korea-US alliance, according to the South Korean Unification Research Institute in Seoul. Kim Tae-woo, the former director of the office, said.

“Some people say that North Korea should keep firing missiles into the sea so that it runs out of resources. But I think that’s a very naive opinion,” he said.

South Korean media reported that Thursday’s launch of Hwasong 17 failed because it did not follow a normal flight and crashed into the sea after a staged separation. During an early test launch in March, Hwasong-17 exploded shortly after takeoff.

“The missile is under development. So it’s not the time to call its launch a ‘failure’ and laugh at it,” said Lee, an expert on the South Korean Defense Network. I think we’ve made some pretty big technological progress.”

North Korea says the missile test is intended as a warning against viewing a series of joint US-South Korean military exercises as rehearsals for aggression. North Korea’s testing activities are likely to continue as the United States and South Korea conduct regular drills.

North Korea is estimated to have about 1,000 ballistic missiles, enough to continue its pressure campaign to win sanctions relief and other concessions until the 2024 US presidential election. Yes, said Myung-Hyung Ko, an analyst at the Asan Research Institute in Seoul. policy research.

“What North Korea wants to prove by 2024 is that its nuclear arsenal is highly advanced and complete, and represents a far greater threat than before,” said Goh. “It is very important for them to maintain their threat perception against the United States, and they are not going to suddenly calm down.”