North Korea's Surprisingly Deadly Navy

February 27, 2015 Topic: Security

North Korea's Surprisingly Deadly Navy

The Korean People's Navy can cause a lot of trouble for the South.

Certainly, Pyongyang’s nukes and ballistic missiles are a serious matter of concern. If they do exist, as American and South Korean intelligence communities believe, whether the SLBM program comes to fruition or not, the KPN’s modernization efforts also constitute a source of concern. In its current or future form, North Korea’s strategic deterrent remains just a tool of deterrence. Its peacetime utility is to raise the threshold for Pyongyang to undertake low-intensity, conventional military provocations. At the same time, it constrains Seoul’s military options; any retaliatory strike against North Korean provocations might invite a disproportionate counter-response by Pyongyang that may involve weapons of mass destruction.

As such, the silent, creeping KPN modernization drive poses a more immediate threat to Korean Peninsula security in view of Pyongyang’s history of belligerent behavior at sea. The new offensive strike capabilities would potentially enhance KPN’s tactical options when it comes to executing fresh provocations against South Korea. The underlying operational ramifications, in view of the escalatory potential of KPN’s new conventional armaments, cannot simply be dismissed.

Koh Swee Lean Collin is an associate research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies based in Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Image: Wikimedia/U.S. Navy