The legacy of the Korean War

ON JUNE 25, 1950, the Korean War began when the Stalinist regime of Kim Il-sung (far left) unleashed the North Korean People’s Army.

Some 75,000 soldiers poured across the 38th parallel, the boundary between the Soviet-backed Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the north and the pro-Western Republic of Korea to the south.

The invasion was the first military action of the Cold War, with U.S., British and Australian forces fighting Chinese troops in North Korea.

To avoid war with China and the Soviet Union, U.S. President Harry Truman began peace talks in 1951, and the adversaries signed a truce – but not a peace treaty – on July 27, 1953.

The two Koreas remain in a technical state of war, with North Korea’s current leader Kim Jong-un (right) repeatedly threatening to rain a “sea of fire” on Seoul and its 10.3 million people.

Threat to South Korea

NORTH KOREA has a conventional army of more than 1.2 million troops and can deploy some 20,000 Soviet-era artillery pieces, 1,000 short- and medium-range missiles, 70 submarines, more than 400 patrol/missile boats and 563 combat aircraft.

According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Military Balance, an estimated 4,000 artillery guns and rockets are deployed on the heights north of Seoul just 48 kilometres away across the demilitarised zone (DMZ), many of them on rails so they can be moved into place in time to avoid detection.

SOUTH KOREA has a reported military strength of 3,725,000, with 625,000 active personnel and 3,100,000 in reserve. Also, there are some 23,500 U.S. troops based in the south.

Kim’s missile threat

SINCE COMING TO POWER in December 2011, Kim Jong-un has conducted 82 ballistic missile tests, including 14 so far in 2017

In May 2017, North Korea conducted its first test of a KN-17 (Hwasong-12) intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which it claims could reach “anywhere in the world.”

Missile tests by year…

The strides in Kim’s rocket programme coincided with the successful launch of an Unha-3 rocket in December 2012.

Rocket scientist Kim Jong Sik got credit for the launch after identifying mistakes in a failed April 2012 attempt.

Kim Jong Un also reportedly handpicked two other men – Ri Pyong Chol and Jang Chang Ha – to lead the missile programme with Kim Jong Sik. 

Kim’s nuclear threat

U.S. INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES conclude that North Korea is working toward its stated goal of placing a nuclear warhead on an ICBM capable of reaching the United States.

“North Korea has an estimated 66-88 pounds (30-40kg) of separated plutonium, enough for at least half a dozen nuclear weapons”

Congressional Research Service report, 2016

Kim with bomb pic

Kim Jong-un (centre) looks at a metal casing which could be a miniaturized nuclear weapon.
Picture: AFP via Getty Images

The war of words between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un is escalating, and the world is watching intently to see what each leader does next.

A lengthy series of missile and nuclear tests – spanning over a decade since Kim Jong-il first tested an atom bomb in October 2006 – has culminated with a test of a thermonuclear weapon 20 times as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Sources: Stratfor; Institute for Strategic Studies’ Military Balance; CNS North Korea Missile Test Database, Nuclear Threat Initiative; United States bases South Korea.
Created by Duncan Mil, editied by Julie Mullins | GRAPHIC NEWS