North Korea Demonstrating Conventional Firepower

The North Korean regime of Kim Jong Un is taking advantage of its winter training cycle to step up rocket and missile launch demonstrations, the senior US officer on the Korean Peninsula said Tuesday. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, US Forces Korea commander, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that while the North’s rhetoric is not as fierce as it was in early 2013, it has escalated military rocket firings since February. More than 88 rocket rounds and six missiles have been fired by the North into the East Sea/Sea of Japan since Feb. 21, reported South Korea’s The Hankyoreh. “A small contingent (of the firings) is for winter training,” Scaparrotti told Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). “The remainder were demonstrations for his regime and for the US and [South Korea] and the Alliance, that they have the capability to do this with short notice and with very little alarm.” Scaparrotti confirmed to the committee the launches were demonstrations of the DPRK’s long-range conventional rocket capabilities, including an “experimental” 300 mm multiple rocket launcher weapons system. Scaparrotti said the new system, while not deployed yet, is a “capable” rapid-fire, long-range artillery system. According to several Korean reports, the weapon is modeled on the Chinese WS-1B system, which has a range of 180 kilometers, which could easily hit major Korean and US military facilities in the Seoul area if fired from an area near the demilitarized zone.