How much damage could North Korea unleash even without nuclear weapons?

Updated

May 20, 2017 15:35:42

There’s been a lot of focus on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, and specifically, its hopes of developing a missile that could deliver a nuclear strike on the United States.

But what can be lost in the discussion of the country’s recent missile tests is the vast military capabilities the country already has.

This morning, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said any military solution to the North Korea crisis would be “tragic on an unbelievable scale”.

This is why a diplomatic solution is widely seen as the only solution.

What do we know about North Korea’s military?

Nick Bisley, executive director of La Trobe Asia and editor-in-chief of the Australian Journal of International Affairs, says the military is the second most important institution in North Korea behind the Kim dynasty.

“The whole economy and the purpose of the state is organised around ensuring that the military has vast capacity,” he said.

So despite North Korea having an estimated population of about 25 million — not much more than Australia — it has the second biggest military in Asia behind China.

Professor Bisley says its active military probably has about 1.2 million service people, and that two thirds of its army is situated within a few dozen kilometres of the demilitarised zone (DMZ).

In other words, they’re right on the doorstep of South Korea and its capital Seoul. And they’re pointing a gun right at it.

What could they do to the South?

North Korea has vast artillery capabilities that are targeted on Seoul, which has a population of 10 million and is less…

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