Procurement: North Korea Buys Small

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October 9, 2008: North Koreas economy has been in decline for nearly two decades, but it has still managed to scrape together some money to purchase foreign military equipment and weapons. Not much, though. South Korean intelligence believes that North Korea has only spent $65 million over the last five years for this. In addition, China has given them some second hand trucks and military uniforms (China is equipping its troops with uniforms of a new design.) South Korea imports more than twenty times as much foreign military equipment, and produces most of its own weapons.

North Korea has extensive weapons production of its own, but mainly for small arms, mortars and some artillery. Warship construction is limited to very small submarines and patrol boats. Warplanes are imported. There is some production of ammunition. North Koreas military plants have reduced production over the last decade because of fuel, food and raw materials shortages.

South Korea believes that the readiness (for combat) of North Korean forces has declined considerably over the last decade. Lacking fuel (or spare parts or ammunition) for training, the existing vehicles and aircraft don't get used much. The coast guard still gets fuel, mainly to prevent people from getting out, or South Korea (or anyone else) from smuggling agents in. South Korean politicians were also angry when they found out that some of the money the northerners were spending on the military, apparently came from the aid being provided by the south.

In the north, what resources are available go to keeping the leadership and security forces happy. Someone has to run the place, and you need some nasty guys with guns to make sure no one gets out of line.