North Korea has 200,000 special forces troops
By Lee Tae-hoon
North Korea is believed to have increased the number of its special forces to 200,000 from 180,000 and its battle tanks to 4,100 from 3,900 over the past two years, according to the 2010 Defense White Paper published Thursday.
The biennial report noted that the reinforced North Korean special forces are capable of quickly infiltrating South Korea for assassinations and disrupting major facilities.
The North’s army, which commands more than 85 percent of the communist regime’s troops, has also created four new divisions. The overall military, however, maintained its total number of soldiers at about 1.19 million, the paper said.
The white paper confirmed for the first time that Pyongyang has deployed its new battle tank, called the “Pokpung-ho,” which the North is known to have developed by benchmarking the Soviet Union’s T-72 tanks in the 1990s.
Defense officials say the new tanks with better firepower and mobility have been deployed near the border and Pyongyang.
It said the number of tanks jumped to 4,100 as of November 2010, up 200 compared to two years ago, without mentioning how many of the latest model have been deployed for operational use.
The North’s army has deployed many of its 13,600 artillery pieces, including 170mm self-propelled artillery and 240mm multiple rocket launchers, along the Demilitarized Zone, for a possible bombardment on Seoul and other major cities, according to the defense paper.
It also said the “North Korean regime and military are our enemy” and pose a “grave threat” to the South’s security by “staging military provocations such as the torpedo attack on the frigate Cheonan and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island.”
The North’s sinking of the Cheonan on March 26 took the lives of 46 sailors aboard and its artillery attack on Yeonpyeong in the West Sea on Nov. 23 killed two marines and two civilians.