In a program that would bring severe sanctions and eat up precious resources that could have been spent boosting the nation’s quality of life, North Korea committed to a huge investment when it decided to go nuclear.
But its leader Kim Jong Un seems to think that the money has been well spent.
North Korea has managed to march ever closer to having an arsenal capable of attacking targets in the region and the United States’ mainland even though its nuclear and missile development programs have without doubt come at a high cost.
In North Korea, it is hard to find good, solid figures for just about anything.
But here’s a look at why Kim might think that’s the price he must pay to survive and how much that arsenal might cost Pyongyang.
With the higher number combining nuclear and missile development, South Korea has estimated the cost of the North’s nuclear program at $1 billion to $3 billion.
And in comparison, about $2.5 billion is the cost to the United States Navy for one nuclear-powered Virginia class attack submarine. Without the development costs, an $8 billion price tag goes with the USS Gerald Ford, America’s newest aircraft carrier.
Since Kim Jong Un test-launched from when he took power in late 2011 until July last year, the cost of the first 31 ballistic missiles was estimated at $97 million by South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense.
each submarine-launched ballistic missile at $5 million to $10 million, each Musudan from $3 million to $6 million and each Scud at $1 million to $2 million was the prices estimated by it. Kim had launched 16 Scuds, six Rodongs, six Musudans and three SLBMs up until July last year.
North Korea has conducted 11 tests, launching 17 missiles, so far this year, including the launch this month of its first ICBM.
Somewhere between a fifth to a quarter of its gross domestic product (about $30 billion to $40 billion), North Korea’s total defense spending is believed to be around $10 billion a year.
Regime survival is Kim Jong Un’s primary objective and that is the bottom line.
In a conventional arms race, there is no way North Korea could keep up with its richer and more technologically advanced neighbors.
Once developed, maintaining a viable nuclear deterrent is less costly than paying for its conventional, million-man military, and therefore, while certainly expensive, the North’s nuclear strategy is in one sense a potential source of savings.
Pyongyang could redirect the savings toward the domestic economy as it could reduce its spending on other areas of the military once it has reliable nuclear arms.
And in recent years, Kim has adopted as his guiding policy a strategy of simultaneously developing the country’s nuclear arsenal and the national economy, officially announced budgets have shown increases in funds for the public good. This shows that Kim Jong Un has probably already begun doing that.
There has been visible growth in construction and infrastructure projects, along with the production of consumer goods, over the past five years and the North’s GDP has been growing slowly or at least holding steady since he became leader, outside estimates indicate.
(Adapted from CNBC)