Korean Peninsula Military Modernization Trends
September 22, 2016
Military modernization efforts are a key variable when assessing the Korean Peninsula, and one where the shifting strategies and military efforts of the United States and China play an increasingly important role. The modernization trends of all the countries involved in the region have great significance in determining the types of engagement that could be fought. Modernization affects deterrence and assessments of the potential course of any engagement, as well as estimate of types of forces the United States needs to commit to the region, both in times of peace and in times of tension.
There are serious limits to the unclassified data available for comparisons of Northeast Asian military modernization—especially for China and the DPRK. Unclassified sources do not include many smart munitions, they only cover a limited amount of other weaponry, and they do not reflect investments in logistics and transport. They also often do not include battle management, ISR, or Command, Control, Communications, and Computer (C4) assets. These are becoming steadily more critical aspects of military modernization.
Later in this section, Figure VI.1 to Figure VI.5 do show, however, that the ROK has modernized more rapidly and with more advanced equipment than the DPRK, while Pyongyang has focused on force expansion. The ROK has almost achieved a massive lead in modern aircraft and surface-to-air missiles. The figures also show that the ROK has an effective plan for force modernization through 2020—a plan it has upgraded since 2005. There is no unclassified DPRK equivalent.
A new report by the CSIS Burke Chair in Strategy provides a detailed analysis on this modernization, and is available on the CSIS website at https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/publication/160922_Korean_Peninsula_Modernization.pdf
Other recent Burke Chair studies that address these issues include:
The Conventional Military Balance in the Koreas and Northeast Asia: https://www.csis.org/analysis/conventional-military-balance-koreas-and-northeast-asia
North Korean Nuclear Forces and the Threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Northeast Asia: https://www.csis.org/analysis/north-korean-nuclear-forces-and-threat-weapons-mass-destruction-northeast-asia
Korean Special, Asymmetric, and Paramilitary Forces: https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/publication/160809_Korean_Special_Asymmetric_Paramilitary_Forces.pdf