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Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
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    Figure 15. Comparison of Military Expenditures, North Korea and South Korea, Selected Years, 1979-89

    Source: Based on information from United States, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers, 1990, Washington, 1991, 69.


    Observation post at Demilitarized Zone, looking from North Korea to South Korea
    Courtesy Tracy Woodward


    Map at Armistice Hall, Demilitarized Zone, depicting North Korea's view of the deployment of the "American Army and nuclear weapons in South Korea"
    Courtesy Tracy Woodward

    The demise of communist systems in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe was a profound shock to North Korea. Although relations with the Soviet Union had cooled in the late 1980s, North Korea was ill prepared for the dramatic devaluation of its strategic value to Russia and the CIS. The ramifications for North Korea's military were unclear in mid-1993, but some aspects are known. North Korea has lost its military alliance with the former Soviet Union, its access to military hardware and expertise at socialist concessionary rates, and the ability to exploit Soviet-United States competition to its advantage. Despite North Korea's strenuous efforts at military independence, in the long term these events will make it increasingly difficult for North Korea to maintain a large, modernizing military and, as well, leave the country increasingly isolated.

    Official North-South dialogue was reestablished in late 1984, twelve years after the first series of talks in 1972 had been suspended. It was not until December 1991, however, that any progress was made on military confidence-building measures or arms control. The North-South Agreement on Reconciliation, Nonaggression, Exchanges, and Cooperation, signed in December 1991, potentially marks initial progress toward a reduction in military tension on the peninsula. The two sides renounced the use of force against each other and pledged to pursue as yet undetermined military confidence-building measures. Little real progress has been made as of mid-1993, however, other than further institutionalizing the structure of their talks. As a show of good faith, the Republic of Korea announced on January 7, 1992, that it was cancelling the United States-South Korea Team Spirit military exercise for that year.

    The Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula initialed on December 31, 1991, bans the testing, manufacture, production, possession, storage, deployment, receipt, and use of nuclear weapons on the peninsula. It also stipulates that neither Korea will possess nuclear reprocessing or uranium enrichment facilities. It requires that the JNCC be organized within thirty days of the exchange of ratified declarations on February 19, 1992. The JNCC has responsibility for implementing the non-nuclear declaration, including bilateral inspections, but in actuality exists only on paper (see Inter-Korean Affairs , ch. 4).

    P'yongyang is a regime under tremendous pressure, with forces for change in the region threatening its existence. Seoul, which has won the political and economic competition, threatens to absorb North Korea in the same manner as West Germany has absorbed East Germany. Only in military strength, with over 1 million men under arms, does North Korea have an edge over South Korea. Its long-term commitment to a massive force improvement program has crippled economic growth. Barring an unforeseen turn of events during its inevitable political succession, North Korea gives little sign of a willingness to abandon its painfully acquired military capability. In fact, it might view its military force as the only deterrent to absorption by South Korea.

    Nonetheless, P'yongyang's leaders are restrained from war by a complex set of military and political factors: the large, welltrained , and well-equipped South Korean military and the increasing political stability in South Korea; the United States security commitment to South Korea and the forward military presence supporting it; and the uncertainty of China's support for military action. As long as the North Korean leadership remains stable, the likelihood of full-scale attack by North Korea remains low.

    However, if instability becomes a part of the succession process, the outlook is more problematic. North Korea will be under growing pressure, which will increase the possibility of miscalculation. The potential for political instability in the final stages of the leadership succession further reinforces this concern.

    Data as of June 1993

    NOTE: The information regarding Korea, North on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Korea, North GEOPOLITICAL CHANGES: NEW WORLD ORDER AND NORTH KOREAN SECURITY information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Korea, North GEOPOLITICAL CHANGES: NEW WORLD ORDER AND NORTH KOREAN SECURITY should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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