A photo released by North Korea's state news agency depicts a hovercraft marine landing. The photo was reportedly enhanced to duplicate the vessels depicted. Photo: KCNA

Nuke missiles aren’t the only lethal military capability being developed by North Korea. Analyst Joseph S. Bermudez says Pyongyang may be expanding its hovercraft and navy sniper brigade forces in an asymmetric military threat to South Korea.

Bermudez noted earlier this month in an article for Beyond Parallel, a website dedicated to Korean unification issues, that hovercraft and related special ops units such as naval snipers make up a large chunk of the Korean People’s Army. Pyongyang is also said to be taking pains to modernize and restructure such forces which could be used to assault South Korean beachheads.

He adds that recent satellite imagery indicates construction at new hovercraft bases. This suggests the North will eventually move the units to forward-deployed positions closer to South Korean islands in the West Sea.

Specifically, Bermudez says, construction activity has been detected at two new North Korean hovercraft bases Sasŭlp’o (사슬포/고암포) and Yŏnbong-ni (련봉리). This may hint that North Korea could be preparing to forward deploy existing hovercraft units from Kibong-dong and Tasa-ri to this area.

The North hasn’t noticeably increased the number of hovercraft deployed along the West Sea. Nor has it forward deployed hovercraft units from older bases, according to the analyst.

But if North Korea does redeploy its existing hovercraft units at Kibong-dong and Tasa-ri to the Yŏnbong-ni hovercraft base, Bermudez says it would represent the furthest westward deployment of any Korean People’s Navy hovercraft to date.

“This would also constitute a significant escalation of the navy sniper brigade threat to the ROK islands in the West Sea and ports along the coast; and potentially a political calculation that the ROK is too weak to counter such a move,” Bermudez wrote.

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