Why the World Should Fear North Korea’s Type 73 Machine Gun

Joseph Trevithick

Security, Asia

And, of course, there is an Iran connection to all of this. 

Why the World Should Fear North Korea’s Type 73 Machine Gun

Not surprisingly, many of the machine guns ended up with other armed factions, including Christian Babylon Brigades, according to Armament Research Services, another independent monitoring organization. It is entirely possible that many of the weapons changed hands more than once in the fighting with Islamic State terrorists. By March 2016, Type 73s had spread to Syria and Yemen. Again, Iran seemed to be the link connecting everything together.

Between February and March 2016, Australian and French sailors in the Arabian Sea seized small ships — or dhows — smuggling weapons, most likely to militants in Somalia and Yemen. These caches aboard the dhows included examples of one particularly rare firearm, the North Korean Type 73 machine gun.

In November 2016, independent monitoring group Conflict Armament Research released a report detailing the captured weapons and their likely points of origins and destinations. According to the analysis, the shipments showed links between Iran and armed groups Tehran supports in the Gulf of Aden region.

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“The presence of large consignments of weapons on board the dhows, a significant proportion of which were manufactured in Iran … suggests that Iranian entities may have been involved in the supply of these weapons,” the researchers concluded.

“Furthermore, the presence of materiel in Yemen with matching lot numbers and displaying the same serial number sequence … supports the assertion that materiel on board the dhows was ultimately destined for Yemen, and likewise, that the materiel recovered in Yemen probably originated in Iran.”

But it may be the odd North Korean guns that are actually the clearest indicator of an Iranian connection. Since 2015, these weapons have been turning up on battlefields from Yemen all the way to Iraq.

The Type 73 is an intriguing design, virtually unheard of outside North Korea. Little information about the gun’s origins has escape the reclusive communist country.

“Even within the mist of secrecy regarding North Korean firearms, the Type 73 is still clouded in mystery,” Dan Shea and Heebum Hong wrote…

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