S. Korea to revise method of assessing military strength of two Koreas

SEOUL, South Korea has decided to consider both the qualitative and quantitative aspects of two Koreas’ militaries in its comparative analysis of their overall strengths, Seoul’s defense ministry said Thursday.

The decision marks a shift from its long-standing “bean-counting” method, which focuses on sheer numbers and has made the North appear more powerful despite the South’s technological advancements.

The ministry plans to include its reevaluation of the two Koreas’ military capabilities in its biennial defense white paper to be published later this year.

In the new evaluation, Seoul is expected to reflect its technological advantages from top-of-the-line weapons systems, such as its Aegis-equipped destroyers and precision-guided weapons systems.

The evaluation will also look into the current status of the countries’ weapons systems to note where they have been kept and how long they have been used — features that could affect combat capabilities.

“(South Korea’s evaluation) has depicted the North’s military as if its capabilities are overwhelmingly superior by only presenting the numerical aspects,” the ministry said in a document sent to the National Assembly’s defense committee for a parliamentary audit.

“That was an evaluation that does not reflect the real capabilities of our military. So as not to underestimate our capabilities, we will make our evaluations based on both quantitative and qualitative analyses down the road,” it added.

The 2016 defense white paper showed that the North’s troop level is twice that of the South, while the numbers of its submarines and multiple launch rocket systems are seven and 27.5 times greater than that of the South.

Such numerical evaluations of the countries’ conventional arms have triggered security jitters in the South. Some critics have also argued that Seoul has made too many concessions in its recent agreement with Pyongyang over arms control measures.

In an appendix to this year’s white paper, the ministry also plans to include its reevaluation of the North’s nuclear capabilities, including an estimate of the number of the North’s nuclear weapons.

In the 2016 white paper, the ministry said that the North is estimated to possess 50 kilograms of plutonium and that its capability to miniaturize nuclear warheads appears to have reached a “considerable level.” To produce one nuclear bomb, around 6 kilograms of plutonium is required.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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