Author: Mythili Sampathkumar

Posted on: The Independent | February 7th, 2018


The position of one base could put North Korean forces in South Korea in just 30 minutes

New satellite images showed that North Korea is building two new bases as well as upgrading two other facilities that could put troops in South Korea within 30 minutes.

The bases will house the secretive country’s hovercraft and a fleet of assault vehicles according to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), who published the images as part of a new study.

Leader Kim Jong-un’s latest move comes just ahead of the Winter Olympics taking place in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The hermit kingdom is also preparing to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of its military on 8 February, just one day before the Olympics begins.

Celebrations had originally been scheduled for 25 April, but North Korea moved the date up.

Joseph Bermudez, author of the study and an imagery analyst for the 38 North website, which is run by the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, said the base at Yonbong-ni will be the closest to the border and is set to be finished next year.

Satellite imagery uncovers improved strength in North Korea’s hovercraft units – a key element to the Korean People’s Army (KPN).

— CSIS (@CSIS) February 5, 2018

From there, the South Korean port of Incheon is just 90 minutes away, but the South Korean island of Daecheong-do is only a half hour away for hovercraft to make land.

“However, thus far the Korean People’s Navy has not significantly increased the number of hovercraft deployed along the West Sea and has not forward deployed the hovercraft units from older bases,” CSIS wrote.

Other satellite imagery showed that 13,000 troops were rehearsing at a training facility outside the capital Pyongyang.

Amid growing concerns that North Korea is continuing to build its nuclear weapons programme despite strict US and United Nations sanctions, US President Donald Trump has agreed to delay joint military exercises with South Korea until after the Winter Olympics.

Mr Trump consulted with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on the matter, according to Pentagon spokesman Colonel Rob Manning.

The decision pushes back a set of annual military exercises known as Foal Eagle, which are usually held between February and April. Foal Eagle is a series of exercises designed to test the readiness of the US and South Korean militaries.

Seoul also announced that it would begin direct talks with Pyongyang.

Mr Moon ran his presidential campaign last year with the promise and goal of a «sunshine policy» towards North Korea; more open economic relations and direct negotiating to achieve peace.

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