North Korea is Building a Hovercraft Base Closer to Maritime Border

Ben Cho, Feb. 7, 2018, 9:15 a.m.

North Korea is building a hovercraft base near the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime border, form where it could launch a surprise invasion of South Korea's Baeknyeong Island within 30 minutes. Joseph Bermudez, a former analyst of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, wrote on the Beyond Parallel website Monday that the North is building the base at Yonbong-ri in South Hwanghae Province, 135 km southwest of Pyongyang.

Yonbong-ri lies just north of the NLL in the West Sea and is only 40 km from Baeknyeong. A hovercraft could reach the island within 30 minutes if it runs at a speed 100 km/h. Yonbong-ri is about 10 km closer to the island than an older hovercraft base at Koampo.

Two parts of the base are under construction at Yonbong-ri on the eastern and western sides of the bay. It appears to consist of a hangar, a command post, barracks, and a support facility and have a capacity for 54 hovercraft. But Bermudez said construction looks like it will not be finished until next year. "If North Korea does redeploy the existing hovercraft units at Kibong-dong and Tasa-ri to the Yonbong-ri hovercraft base, it would represent the furthest forward deployment of any [North Korean naval] hovercraft unit to date," he added.

"This would also constitute a significant escalation of the navy sniper brigade threat to the [South Korean] islands in the West Sea and ports along the coast." South Korea will deploy the Bigung guided missile system and Cobra attack helicopters on Baeknyeong Island to defend it against the threat.

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