South Korea’s Defense Chief Warns of North Korea’s Growing Missile Capabilities and Potential Arms Trade with Russia

SEOUL: South Korea's Defense Minister Shin Won-sik has raised concerns about North Korea's expanding missile capabilities and its potential arms trade with Russia, including the sale of new types of tactical guided missiles. In an exclusive interview with Yonhap News Agency, Shin outlined the growing threats posed by North Korea's missile program, which could further escalate tensions in the region.

According to Yonhap News Agency, North Korea may be planning to sell new types of tactical guided missiles to Russia, in addition to its alleged supply of short-range ballistic missiles for Moscow's use in the ongoing conflict with Ukraine. Shin indicated that North Korea's recent display of close-range ballistic missiles (CRBMs) during leader Kim Jong-un's visit to a munitions factory suggests these missiles are capable of carrying tactical nuclear weapons.

Shin expressed concerns about North Korea's missile development, including the possibility of testing solid-fuel intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM) as early as this month. He also speculated that North Korea might launch long-range missiles at normal angles, heightening tensions ahead of key elections in South Korea and the United States. The defense ministry has evaluated these North Korean missiles, which are about 5 meters long with a firing range below 300 km, as CRBMs.

The minister highlighted the strategic implications of North Korea's alleged arms supply to Russia, suggesting a strengthening of military cooperation between the two countries. The White House recently declassified intelligence indicating North Korea's provision of ballistic missile launchers and several ballistic missiles to Russia. Shin also raised concerns over the reciprocal exchange of technological assistance between North Korea and Russia, including support for North Korea's spy satellite program.

Shin warned of various provocations by North Korea in the lead-up to South Korea's parliamentary elections and the U.S. presidential election. He noted that North Korea's development of solid-fuel IRBMs could potentially target U.S. military bases in Japan and Guam. Additionally, the possibility of North Korea launching intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) at normal angles to test their atmospheric reentry technology and precision strike capability is a significant concern.

In response to North Korea's recent artillery firings near the western sea border, Shin declared that the buffer zones created under the 2018 inter-Korean military agreement "no longer exist." He vowed to resume defensive drills near the border to bolster readiness. Tensions have escalated as North Korea has been restoring guard posts inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) with concrete structures.

Shin also discussed the possibility of North Korea conducting a seventh nuclear test to develop "smaller, lighter" nuclear weapons. He stressed that North Korea's status as a nuclear state is unacceptable and warned of tougher international sanctions if it continues to pursue nuclear weapons and missiles. Shin emphasized that nuclear development is not a path to power but a risk to the regime's stability.

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