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Kim Jong-un used his country’s military celebrations over the weekend to unveil a “colossal” new ballistic missile. The parade marked the 75th anniversary of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party. In an unprecedented move, Kim threw a gathering on a scale never before seen on the stroke of midnight.
The event featured heavily choreographed marches, as well as an emotional speech from Kim who spoke about the country’s recent struggles.
The “strategic weapon” has largely been interpreted as being unveiled to prompt the US into further discussions over lifting trade restrictions and the like.
During his New Year’s address earlier this year, Kim said “state-of-the-art” weapons “possessed only be advanced countries” would soon be available, because “the more the US stalls for time and hesitates in the settlement of DPRK-US relations, the more helpless it will find itself before the might of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which is growing stronger beyond prediction, and the deeper it will fall into an impasse”.
The North has built a considerable repository of nuclear weapons, almost all capable of destroying South Korea, some powerful enough to reach US overseas territories such as Guam and potentially the US mainland.
However, according to a 2018 report by military affairs and national security expert Yochi Dreazen, Kim has the ability to “devastate” the South even before using his country’s weapons of mass destruction.
Writing in Vox, he explained: “The experts I spoke to all stressed that Kim could devastate Seoul without even needing to use his weapons of mass destruction. The North Korean military has an enormous number of rocket launchers and artillery pieces within range of Seoul.
“The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service estimates that Kim could hammer the South Korean capital with an astonishing 10,000 rockets per minute — and that such a barrage could kill more than 300,000 South Koreans in the opening days of the conflict.
“That’s all without using a single nuclear, chemical, or biological weapon.”
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Many have questioned how the North has financed its weapons programme over the years.
It runs parallel to reports of famine and severe food and water shortages that regularly surface.
Both Kim and his predecessors, it has been suggested, use elaborate means and shady efforts to raise billions of dollars to put towards the country’s nuclear endeavours.
Harsh economic sanctions have left the North overly dependent on certain countries, like China, which accounts for 67.2 percent of the country’s exports and 61.6 percent of imports according to 2011 data.
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Other countries and blocs like South Korea, India, and the EU make up the rest of the North’s official imports and exports.
The bulk of its money has come through the illegal export of weapons to war-torn countries such as Iran and nations in Africa, according to reports.
During the Eighties, North Korea emerged as a legal arms trader to primarily Third World Countries.
It exported inexpensive, technically unsophisticated, but reliable weapons, according to a US Foreign Policy document dated October 1991.
While the Iran-Iraq war waged, some 90 percent of arms exports from the North went directly and indirectly to Iran, and between 1981 and 1989, the Kim family reeled in an astonishing $4billion (£3.8bn) from arms sales.
The North also has a track record in proliferating nuclear and missile technology and, in 2001, reports suggested the country made sales of around $550million (£425m).
Modern-day UN sanctions on North Korea now ban its sale of arms, although an intricate network of indirect sales and multiple middlemen has made for a way the North can circumvent the sanctions and use front companies and embassies to traffic weapons.
In a 2014 UN report, Syria, Myanmar, Eritrea, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Somalia and Iran were all suspected to have bought weapons from North Korea.
The country also allegedly participates in cybercrime, siphoning millions from banks and organisations around the world.
Highly-skilled hacking group, the BeagleBoyz, were first detected by global authorities in 2014 and have since tried to steal at least £1.6billion.
The country came within a whisker of the biggest bank heist in history in 2016, when a last minute typo meant a hacker group missed out on snatching $1billion (£766) from the New York Federal Reserve – however, they still managed to get away with $81m (£62m).
Meanwhile, Kim’s newest and largest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) has been described as his “promised strategic weapon” that “absolutely targets the US”.
Yet to be tested, the North has already trialled two other ICBMs, including the Hwasong-14 (tested twice) with a range of 10,000km (6,213 miles) that can reach nearly all of western Europe and about half of the US mainland carrying a single nuclear warhead.
The Hwasong-15 has a range of 13,000km, meaning it can deliver a single nuclear warhead anywhere in the US mainland.
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