04/25/2006, 00.00
NORTH KOREA
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Military's situation going from bad to worse

Military sources in Seoul say equipment and morale of North Korean soldiers are reaching a critical low. Kim Jong-il is faced with two possibilities, either the military rebels or starves to death.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – "It seems [North Korea] is having a very hard time keeping up its military," South Korean Defence Minister Yoon Kwang-ung said after a rare photo was released on the 74th anniversary of the founding of the (North) Korean People's Army. The picture was taken in eastern Kangwon province, which borders South Korea, and shows North Korean soldiers being drilled. According to a top military official from South Korea, the photo highlights Pyongyang's apparent struggle to maintain its vast military.

The situation is confirmed by Defence Minister Yoon after talks with his Chinese counterpart, Cao Gangchuan, who visited Seoul last week after a trip to Pyongyang.

"It looks like the North Korean military's equipment-maintenance posture is facing great difficulty," he said. "The effect of costs such as oil is growing". This is making it increasingly harder for the communist state to maintain energy-thirsty structures like the military.

This impression is backed by another military source in Seoul, who told AsiaNews that North Korea's dictator, 'Dear leader' "Kim Jong-il has less and less support in the country. Under his father the members of the armed forces were decently fed, clothed and housed. A military elite loyal to the regime had formed which blocked any stirring in the population. But now, as a result of waste and the son's incompetent leadership, not even the military can live decently and many are starting to ask themselves whether it is worth to continue to oppress the people."

"It things keep as they are," he concluded, "Kim will face two possibilities, an armed revolt by his generals or see his soldiers starve to death."

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