Richard Willis's Blog

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North Korea Threatens War

North Korea FlagSince the end of the Korean War in 1953 there has been an uneasy truce in the peninsula between the forces of the Communist North (backed by China) and the capitalist South (backed by the USA). North Korea has a reputation for being something of a comic regime with a succession of hereditary tin pot dictators and a military with unfeasibly big hats! There have been periodic small scale clashes between the North and South, and some scares when the North has tested various missile systems. However, both sides have pulled back from resuming full scale conflict.

The Korean peninsula remains one of the most heavily militarised places on earth with both sides retaining large armed forces and with a sizeable US military presence in the South. Despite widespread poverty and a relatively tiny GDP the Communist North retains a huge military on paper, and a limited nuclear capability.

–                                 North Korea                                   South Korea
Population                        24.5m                                                50m
GDP                                US$33bn                                         US$1.2trn
Armed Forces           1.1m Reg (4.7m Res)                     686k Reg (4.5m Res)
Main Battle Tanks           3,500 (est)                                          2,300
Artillery                         10,000                                                  4,500
Combat Aircraft                 600                                                     600
Surface Ships                    310                                                      130
Submarines                       90                                                        20

The South’s forces, despite being smaller in number, are significantly better quality and to them can be added United States forces in map-korea-300the area. The US has 18,000 troops in South Korea and over 300 combat aircraft in the vicinity. Whilst the North Koreans are generally supported by China it is debatable what assistance China would supply (if any) in the event of a North Korean attack on the South.

The North may be making a lot of noise and rattling its sabres at the moment but any serious attack on the South would be an invitation to suicide. The US is no doubt discretely reinforcing its presence in the region and alongside the forces of the South, there is no doubt that the North would lose any direct conflict. That is the rational assessment but one thing which characterises the Communist regime in the North is its irrationality! With its people starving and its equipment largely outdated it could be the end of one of the last Communist regimes in the world if it were to precipitate a conflict.

I fervently hope that war is not the eventual outcome but the silver lining could be that the peninsula is reunited under a democratic government and the people of the north can benefit from the development and wealth which would follow. A reunited and prosperous Korea would be a major player on the world stage.

UPDATE – 2 April – North Korea has announced the resumption of its nuclear programme and the USA has deployed F22 stealth fighters to South Korea.

UPDATE – 3 April – North Korea has announced that the Army has authorisation to conduct nuclear strike on the US. The Americans have deployed a missile destroyer to the region and missile defence systems to Guam in the Pacific.


April 1, 2013 - Posted by | International


  1. Simple solution. Having first ensured that Russia’s President Putin is at ease with it, President Obama asks the new Leader of China to sort it out. China could even have a military presence in North Korea to protect it from any aggression but the Kim Dynasty would have to come to an end. China could then appoint a ruler less bellicose against the West whilst maintaining the separate identity of North Korea from the South. No need for a shotgun marriage of both of these nations.

    Comment by Steve Foley | April 1, 2013 | Reply

    • What about democracy and letting the people of North Korea decide Steve?

      Comment by Richard Willis | April 1, 2013 | Reply

  2. World Safety and NOT upsetting China which will be the next supreme World Power as the USA’s star sinks is more important. I am taking a pragmatic view. We have no right to impose Western ideas on an Oriental nation. I am sure the Chinese can sort out its pip-squeak little neighbour and the ordinary North Korean citizen would be no worse off.

    Comment by Steve Foley | April 1, 2013 | Reply

  3. Quite odd really to still be calling this a ‘communist’ state. Nothing could be further from the truth when the leadership passes from father to son. More like a monarchy I think!
    I think that North Korea is ‘at war’ on an almost constant basis. I’m not sure that we will notice much difference.

    Comment by Howard Thomas | April 1, 2013 | Reply

    • Yet again Howard a “Common sense” answer. North Korea taken in isolation is a joke and although they may have low yield Nuclear weapons their delivery system is highly unlikely to have the range to hit the US mainland or for that matter the UK. What they COULD do is reach targets in Japan and South Korea. If the latter I am sure that the USA would feel obliged to intervene and protect its client state and such action could escalate as I doubt that China would tolerate such military action on its doorstep. God knows what that could lead to!

      Remember what happened in the Korean War in the 1950s when General Mac Arthur crossed the Yalu River and drew China into that war thus losing all the territory the Western Forces had conquered up till then. I also fear that the UK could be become involved in such a war as was the case in the said Korean War.

      Far better to let the Chinese, in who’s sphere of influence North Korea sits, sort out its little warlike neighbour and maintain peace in that area.

      Finally we have no right to try to impose our system of government on other nations be they Islamic or Oriental Communist., that is Cultural Imperialism whatever fancy name such as “Liberal intervention” one may care to bestow on it. The US/UK record on this has NOT been that brilliant when one considers Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. I cannot help but recall the words of Robert Burns about Democracy “A fig for those by law protected, for liberty’s a glorious feats. Courts for cowards were erected, Churches built to please the priest” Cynical perhaps, but when we have 3 Centre Parties, differing only on detail points and approach and thus no real and clear choice for voters I do question the effectiveness of putting an X on a bit of paper every few years.

      Comment by Steve Foley | April 2, 2013 | Reply

  4. Richard, thank you for posting this in depth analysis which made for interesting reading, all the more so with your considerable knowledge of all things military. One aspect of the economic impact is the disruption / possible closure of the Kaesong industrial complex by the north. Will this disrupt the supply of components for Korean cars and other consumer durables?

    Comment by Philip Sharp | April 4, 2013 | Reply

    • Thanks Phil – nice to hear from you!

      I dont know much about the Kaesong complex but will see what I can find out.

      Comment by Richard Willis | April 4, 2013 | Reply

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