North Korea’s Kim Jong Un uses terrifyingly creative methods to kill enemies

From siccing wild dogs on his own uncle to gunning down his enemies with artillery meant for taking out planes, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un has built a reputation for dispatching with extreme prejudice all those who cross him.

While some of the terrifying methods of execution have never been confirmed, the mere mention of them is sure to keep his inner circle in line – and any potential rivals quiet, say experts. A confirmed favorite tactic, blowing people away with anti-aircraft guns, leave victims unrecognizable.

“Because there are several guns bound together, it would be hard to find the body after firing it once.”

– Hong Hyun-ik, Sejong Institute

“Because there are several guns bound together, it would be hard to find the body after firing it once,” Hong Hyun-ik, chief researcher at the Sejong Institute, a security think tank based in Seoul, told local broadcaster YTN in 2015. “It’s really gruesome.”

In late February, South Korean officials revealed that five North Korean officials had been subjected to the particularly grisly form of overkill. Other methods trickle out of the secretive Hermit Kingdom, their unverified status only burnishing the legend of Kim’s depravity.

report that one official was killed by a mortar round has been treated with skepticism. But the tale sent a strong message when coupled with his alleged crime: drinking and carousing during the official mourning period following the death of Kim’s father, the equally brutal Kim Jong Il.

Kim’s reach extends beyond the pariah nation he never leaves, as demonstrated by the almost certainly sanctioned hit on his half-brother earlier this year. Kim Jong Nam, seen as a successor to Kim should a coup take place, was sprayed in the face with VX nerve agent by two women as he prepared to catch a flight from Kuala Lampur to Macau. North Korea has denied reports that Kim ordered his paternal half-brother’s murder.

Perhaps the most frightening method of execution ordered by the 33-year-old, third-generation dictator is allowing a pack of starving dogs to devour enemies. In one notable case, the victim was purportedly Kim’s own uncle.

Jang Song-thaek was thought of as a father figure to Kim Jong Un, and served as the second-in-command to the supreme leader. But when he ran afoul of Kim in 2013 for “anti-state acts” and “double-dealing,” his familial ties couldn’t save him from his nephew’s wrath.

How Jang died may never come to light, but a rumor that he was fed to dogs was widely reported. Other reports subsequently claimed that Jang was likely executed by anti-aircraft guns before his body was incinerated by flamethrowers.

The gout-addled Kim also had several of his uncle’s cronies killed, and was reportedly “very drunk” when he gave the orders.

According to a report from the Institute for National Security Strategy, a South Korean think tank, Kim has ordered the execution of more than 340 individuals since taking power in 2011. The report also indicates that the number of military and government officials purged by Kim since 2011 has increased every year. Just 3 officials were executed in 2012, compared to about 140 since the beginning of 2016.

Michael Malice, author of “Dear Reader: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong Il,” said Kim’s real favored means of murder is simply presiding over what Malice calls “the worst country on earth.”

“[Kim] chose to let a million to two million people starve to death in the 90’s. So 340 executions,” Malice said. “That number is better to focus on than the guy who probably wasn’t eaten by dogs.”

But when Kim turns executioner, he maximizes the deterrent effect, Malice said.

“If you want to talk about weird methods of killing, the fact that everyone has to watch is horrifically weird,” the author told Fox News.

Malice was referring to reports from defectors that North Koreans are forced to watch the many public executions that occur. The claim – and Kim’s underlying purpose – were echoed by a 2014 report from the United Nations Human Rights Council.

“Public executions and enforced disappearance to political prison camps serve as the ultimate means to terrorize the population into submission,” the report stated.

Americans consider Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old college student sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor for stealing a poster, to have effectively been a victim of Kim’s bloodlust. It may never be known what killed Warmbier, but he was returned to the U.S. last week, 17 months after beginning his sentence, in a terminal state. He was buried Thursday.

Even if Warmbier’s death was not technically an execution, it is a stark reminder of how even minor crimes are dealt with in North Korea. People are publicly executed for such “crimes” as importing South Korean or American music and movies or being caught with a Bible.

“To focus on this carnival aspect [of Kim’s allegedly unusual executions] really misses the point about what makes this place so unique and horrible,” Malice said. “This is what they have to worry about on a regular basis.”

North Korea, Kim Jong Un, anti-aircraft guns, South Korea, overkill, Kim Jong Nam, Jong Song-thaek, Otto Warmbier

North Korea threat: Mattis says war with isolated nation would be ‘catastrophic’

Defense Secretary James Mattis offered a dark outlook of what war with North Korea would look like hours before the rogue regime launched another ballistic missile.

Mattis said in a televised interview with CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that a conflict with North Korea would be “probably the worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetime.”

“The bottom line is it would be a catastrophic war if this turns into a combat if we’re not able to resolve this situation through diplomatic means,” he said.

Later Sunday, North Korea tested a short-range Scud ballistic missile off of its eastern coast, the U.S. military said. The statement said the missile flew for six minutes until it landed in the Sea of Japan.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile flew about 280 miles.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said what appeared to be a North Korean ballistic missile fell within Japan’s exclusive maritime economic zone.

“We cannot tolerate such repeated actions from North Korea, and we have lodged a strong protest against North Korea, criticizing them in the strongest form,” Suga said.

There was no immediate comment from North Korea’s state controlled media. But the launch followed a report from the North that said leader Kim Jong Un had watched a successful test of a new type of anti-aircraft guided weapon system. It wasn’t clear from the report when the test happened.

North Korea is still thought to be several years away from its goal of being able to target U.S. mainland cities with a nuclear ICBM, but each new test puts it closer to success. The North has a strong arsenal of short- and medium-range missiles that target Japan and South Korea and U.S. forces in the region, and it is working to perfect its longer-range missiles.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Japan vows to take action with US after North Korea missile test

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to take action against North Korea after Pyongyang’s missile test on Sunday ended in the Sea of Japan.

Abe addressed the situation in a brief televised address on Monday: “As we agreed at the recent G7, the issue of North Korea is a top priority for the international community,” according to Reuters.

“Working with the United States, we will take specific action to deter North Korea.”

NORTH KOREA THREAT: MATTIS SAYS WAR WITH ISOLATED NATION WOULD BE ‘CATASTROPHIC’

North Korea tested a short-range Scud ballistic missile off its eastern coast at 4:40 p.m. ET (5:40 a.m. Monday Korea time). The missile flew for six minutes until it landed in the Sea of Japan.

US officials told Fox News a North Korean MiG fighter jet crashed near the launch site of the latest surface-to-air missile test.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the missile fell within Japan’s exclusive maritime economic zone. He said there was no immediate report of damage to planes or vessels in the area.

“We cannot tolerate such repeated actions from North Korea, and we have lodged a strong protest against North Korea, criticizing them in the strongest form,” Suga said in a statement after the test.

This is the third missile test North Korea has conducted in a month. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has vowed to field a nuclear-armed missile that is capable of reaching U.S. territory.

Russia and China condemned Sunday’s missile test and called for restraint.

FOX NEWS: COMPLETE COVERAGE OF NORTH KOREA CONFLICT

The U.S. military announced last Friday that it will be launching a first-of-its-kind missile intercept test this week. The test would involve launching a custom-made missile from the Marshall Island and aim to shoot it down in space by firing an interceptor missile from a base in California.

Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report.

Russia steps up North Korea support to constrain US

In spite of international sanctions on North Korea’s communist regime, Russia has been increasing fuel exports to Pyongyang and filling in the supply gap created by China halting trade. Julian Ryall reports.

Russland Militärparade in Moskau (Reuters/S. Karpukhin)

Despite efforts by the United Nations to impose isolating sanctions on North Korea in response to the country’s continued development of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles, trade between Russia and North Korea soared more than 85 percent in the first four months of the year.

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Citing Russian customs data, the Voice of America broadcaster has reported that bilateral trade climbed to $31.83 million (29 million euros) in the January-March quarter, with the vast majority being energy products going over the border into the North.

This included $22 million worth of coal, lignite with a value of around $4.7 million, and oil estimated at $1.2 million. In return, North Korean exports to Russia were estimated to be worth $420,000. The most significant exports were chemicals and – curiously – wind instruments.

China trade falls

In contrast, North Korea’s trade with China, traditionally its most important economic partner, has plummeted. Pyongyang’s exports of coal to China in March came to 6,342 tons, a fraction of the 1.44 million tons sent to China in January, with an estimated value of $126.39 million. Similarly, Beijing has stopped supplying critically-needed fuel oil to the North, a clear demonstration of China’s displeasure at North Korea’s ongoing weapons tests.

The release of the figures detailing Russia’s increased trade with North Korea coincide with President Vladimir Putin’s statement on Monday that Pyongyang’s latest missile launch was “dangerous” – but, he added, “We must stop intimidating North Korea and find a peaceful solution to this problem.”

Read more: North Korea claims successful test of new rocket able to carry nuclear warhead

James Brown, an associate professor of international relations at Tokyo campus of Temple University, believes some of the cross-border trade may be “economic opportunism” but the motivation for the vast majority of it is geopolitical.

“Russia is very worried about the isolation of North Korea and believes that makes the situation dangerous as the US is taking a confrontational approach,” he told DW.

“Moscow’s position is that pressure on the North has not worked and has in fact caused Pyongyang to react because it feels threatened,” he said. “So instead of isolation, which is not working, Russia is proposing engagement.”

Nordkorea Hwasong-12 (Mars-12) Raketentest (Reuters/KCNA)The UN condemned North Korea’s missile test and vowed new sanctions

New ferry route

The most recent example of this support for Pyongyang is the plan to open a ferry route between North Korea and the Russian Far East port of Vladivostok, although the proposal has been delayed by strong protests from Japan.

Read more: North Korea builds closer ties with fellow outcast Russia

In 2014, Russia announced that it was canceling $10 billion of North Korea’s $11 billion in Soviet-era debt and that the remaining $1 billion would be invested back into the country. Russian investors also agreed to sink $25 billion into the North’s dilapidated railway system, while more would go into basic infrastructure. The two governments also announced that Russia would rebuild the North’s power grid, while the two countries would develop the ice-free port of Rason for exports of Russian coal.

In total, Russia planned to increase bilateral trade almost ten-fold to $1 billion by 2020, and that does not appear to have been hampered by more recent UN sanctions.

But Putin is also motivated by security concerns in Russia’s Far East, Brown said.

“Moscow has always been worried that the defensive missile systems that the US is deploying in the region – the THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea and now Japan is discussing having Aegis Ashore – are more directed at its interests than North Korea,” he said.

Daniel Pinkston, a professor of international relations at the Seoul campus of Troy University, believes that Putin – who is at odds with the international community over the Ukraine conflict and has been accused of meddling in a number of elections, including those in the US and France – may be forging closer ties with Pyongyang to sow further disarray among his perceived enemies.

Watch video00:33

North Korea launches ballistic missile

‘Slash-and-burn approach’

“Putin seems to have adopted a slash-and-burn approach to the liberal international order, so anything that serves to undermine institutions such as NATO, the European Union or democracy in general is fair game,” Pinkston said. “He is intent on creating instability in a way that serves Russian interests and this sort of multi-front, hybrid war serves to undermine the US and its allies.”

“North Korea fits neatly into that agenda because it causes problems for Washington, keeps the US tied down, drains its resources and causes friction with allies in the region.”

Pinkston points out that playing neighboring nations off one other for their respective favors is not a new North Korean tactic. It has manipulated China and Russia for its own ends in the past.

“That sort of back-and-forth was easier to pull off in the Cold War, but they seem to be trying to capitalize on their relations with Russia now that China has become more distant,” the expert underlined. “And I think it is clear that North Korea will take whatever it can get in terms of political, diplomatic or military support, as well as resources.”

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Südkorea TV Übertragung Raketentest in Nordkora (Getty Images/AFP/J. Yeon-Je)

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Aggressive rhetoric and actions on the Korean Peninsula over the past several months have raised concerns about a potential conflagration. The US government under President Donald Trump has put an end to the “strategic patience” policy pursued by the previous Barack Obama administration. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has stressed that the military option remains on the table. And this month, Washington has once again tightened its already stringent sanctions against the reclusive regime in Pyongyang.

Read more: Is a second Korean War imminent? 

China, regarded as the North’s only ally, continues to push for all sides to find a diplomatic solution to the problem. But Beijing, like Washington, has increased the pressure on Pyongyang by enforcing the sanctions regime more tightly, for instance, by halting coal imports from the North.

The growing international calls seem to have made little impact on the North. Kim Jong Un’s regime has increased the pace of nuclear and missile tests over the past year. Experts observe increased activity at the Punggye-ri atomic site hinting at a potential nuclear test soon. Official statements in North Korea’s state media stress the country’s readiness to wage a “total war” at any moment.

Many doubt the ability of the international community to persuade the regime to leave its present course, meaning militarization in the region is unlikely to subside.

High militarization in North Korea

Both North and South Korea have been divided by the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. The conflict back then ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty, and the DMZ remains one of the most heavily fortified places on Earth, where two of the world’s largest militaries stay prepared for a confrontation.

According to an index developed by the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC), a German NGO, South Korea is one of the most militarized nations in the world. It ranks sixth worldwide on the index, which was last updated in 2016.

North Korea is not ranked in the index due to the difficulty in acquiring and assessing information related to its military. But it’s assumed by observers like BICC’s Marius Bales that “there is a high degree of militarization” in North Korean society as well. “This is obvious from the fact that they have a 1.2-million strong military for some 24 million inhabitants.”

Allies for North and South

The two highly armed Koreas are each backed by countries that have a historic geopolitical rivalry with each other. Standing behind the the North, it’s the People’s Republic of China, while on the side of the South, it’s the US. The US-South Korean relationship was sealed in 1953 by a military alliance. In 1961, the North signed a friendship treaty with China and the former Soviet Union including the provision of military and economic aid.

Watch video01:47

Japan joins military build-up off Koreas

Although Russia later abrogated the military assistance pact, China has maintained it. But Beijing has been increasingly vocal in its call for North Korea to back down from its aggressive posture. China’s “Global Times” newspaper, known for its nationalist commentary, has been blistering in its criticism of North Korea, accusing it of destabilizing the region and calling for a halt to its nuclear program.

Another player in the region, Japan, feels threatened by North Korea. While Tokyo’s position in the region is underpinned by its special relationship with the US, its relations with countries like South Korea and China are burdened by its colonial past and World War II legacy.

Quantity vs. quality

One way of showing the military balance of power in the region is by comparing the number of people in the armed forces in each country, as well as the size and scope of the armaments they possess. However, such an approach is mired in imperfections, and the numbers presented have to be treated with some caution.

An annual report on the subject entitled “The Military Balance,” published by the UK-based think tank International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), is considered to be authoritative. It extensively documents the procurement of weapons by various militaries.

Infografik Militärisches Kräfteverhältnis in Ostasien ENG

The figures are partly based on the official data supplied by the countries to international organizations like the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms. But the IISS neither reveals all the sources of its information nor follows a uniform method. It’s unclear, for instance, how accurate statistics on North Korea are as the country doesn’t release any official data.

There is no other alternative, though, says BICC expert Bales. “The Military Balance is the best as well as the only source in this field.”

Still, the expert underlined that the figures represent only the quantity of weapons and not their quality. For example, Bales points out that one heavy tank cannot be considered to be exactly equal in its capabilities to another heavy tank. “A Soviet T-62 tank of the North Korean Army from the late 1960s cannot be on an equal footing with a South Korean K2 Black Panther tank from 2013.”

The manner in which the comparative strengths of militaries were assessed in the 19th and early 20th centuries has become obsolete, experts say.

“Modern warfare and modern weapon systems can’t be compared like that,” Bales stressed, because today we don’t need tanks in equal number to destroy enemy tanks, but can also use drones, helicopters and other aircraft to do that task.

Also, the figures do not show details of other critical resources that are required to operate the weapons. North Korea, for instance, suffers from an acute fuel shortage, hindering its ability to operate training aircraft. In the case of North Korea, Bales said, “the size of the military stands in contrast to its quality. Its air force, in particular, is obsolete, with its most modern aircraft dating back to the 1980s.”

South Korea, on the other hand, is equipped with state-of-the-art military gear, thanks largely to weapons deliveries from the US and Germany.

Watch video01:56

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What the figures additionally show is what areas each country’s military focused on. Being an island nation, Japan has paid attention to strengthening the capabilities of its navy and air force. In the Koreas, however, the army occupies the central role.

The relatively high number of heavy tanks and artillery guns in both those countries show that their armies are designed for large field battles and the defense of their borders. The large number of North Korean submarines is due to their high deterrent potential. And the figures also prove all the countries’ determination to defend themselves militarily.

Technological gap

Still, all this would be meaningless when compared to the mighty US military machine.

A look at the country’s strategic weapons, including long-range missiles and nuclear warheads, makes it clear immediately. China and the US have such capabilities, unlike South Korea and Japan.

North Korea is striving hard to acquire them, but has faced daunting challenges in developing reliable long-range missiles. The US’ weapons technology is so far advanced that North Korea hardly has any chance of competing with it on a technological level, observers reckon.

“With all the technical considerations, however, one should not forget the mutual vulnerability of North and South Korea,” says BICC analyst Bale.

About 70 percent of North Korea’s ground troops are stationed along the border. And South Korea’s bustling capital, Seoul, is just 50 kilometers away from the frontier. “Even with obsolete technology, a devastating attack on South Korea can be carried out with the large number of tanks, artillery and armored personnel carriers.”

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North Korea crisis: Which country has the strongest military in the region?

Tensions continue to run high on the Korean Peninsula as North Korea’s bellicose posture makes its neighbors increasingly nervous. DW takes a look at the military strengths of the main players in the region.

Südkorea TV Übertragung Raketentest in Nordkora (Getty Images/AFP/J. Yeon-Je)

DW RECOMMENDS

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Is a second Korean War imminent?

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Aggressive rhetoric and actions on the Korean Peninsula over the past several months have raised concerns about a potential conflagration. The US government under President Donald Trump has put an end to the “strategic patience” policy pursued by the previous Barack Obama administration. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has stressed that the military option remains on the table. And this month, Washington has once again tightened its already stringent sanctions against the reclusive regime in Pyongyang.

Read more: Is a second Korean War imminent? 

China, regarded as the North’s only ally, continues to push for all sides to find a diplomatic solution to the problem. But Beijing, like Washington, has increased the pressure on Pyongyang by enforcing the sanctions regime more tightly, for instance, by halting coal imports from the North.

The growing international calls seem to have made little impact on the North. Kim Jong Un’s regime has increased the pace of nuclear and missile tests over the past year. Experts observe increased activity at the Punggye-ri atomic site hinting at a potential nuclear test soon. Official statements in North Korea’s state media stress the country’s readiness to wage a “total war” at any moment.

Many doubt the ability of the international community to persuade the regime to leave its present course, meaning militarization in the region is unlikely to subside.

High militarization in North Korea

Both North and South Korea have been divided by the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. The conflict back then ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty, and the DMZ remains one of the most heavily fortified places on Earth, where two of the world’s largest militaries stay prepared for a confrontation.

According to an index developed by the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC), a German NGO, South Korea is one of the most militarized nations in the world. It ranks sixth worldwide on the index, which was last updated in 2016.

North Korea is not ranked in the index due to the difficulty in acquiring and assessing information related to its military. But it’s assumed by observers like BICC’s Marius Bales that “there is a high degree of militarization” in North Korean society as well. “This is obvious from the fact that they have a 1.2-million strong military for some 24 million inhabitants.”

Allies for North and South

The two highly armed Koreas are each backed by countries that have a historic geopolitical rivalry with each other. Standing behind the the North, it’s the People’s Republic of China, while on the side of the South, it’s the US. The US-South Korean relationship was sealed in 1953 by a military alliance. In 1961, the North signed a friendship treaty with China and the former Soviet Union including the provision of military and economic aid.

Watch video01:47

Japan joins military build-up off Koreas

Although Russia later abrogated the military assistance pact, China has maintained it. But Beijing has been increasingly vocal in its call for North Korea to back down from its aggressive posture. China’s “Global Times” newspaper, known for its nationalist commentary, has been blistering in its criticism of North Korea, accusing it of destabilizing the region and calling for a halt to its nuclear program.

Another player in the region, Japan, feels threatened by North Korea. While Tokyo’s position in the region is underpinned by its special relationship with the US, its relations with countries like South Korea and China are burdened by its colonial past and World War II legacy.

Quantity vs. quality

One way of showing the military balance of power in the region is by comparing the number of people in the armed forces in each country, as well as the size and scope of the armaments they possess. However, such an approach is mired in imperfections, and the numbers presented have to be treated with some caution.

An annual report on the subject entitled “The Military Balance,” published by the UK-based think tank International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), is considered to be authoritative. It extensively documents the procurement of weapons by various militaries.

Infografik Militärisches Kräfteverhältnis in Ostasien ENG

The figures are partly based on the official data supplied by the countries to international organizations like the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms. But the IISS neither reveals all the sources of its information nor follows a uniform method. It’s unclear, for instance, how accurate statistics on North Korea are as the country doesn’t release any official data.

There is no other alternative, though, says BICC expert Bales. “The Military Balance is the best as well as the only source in this field.”

Still, the expert underlined that the figures represent only the quantity of weapons and not their quality. For example, Bales points out that one heavy tank cannot be considered to be exactly equal in its capabilities to another heavy tank. “A Soviet T-62 tank of the North Korean Army from the late 1960s cannot be on an equal footing with a South Korean K2 Black Panther tank from 2013.”

The manner in which the comparative strengths of militaries were assessed in the 19th and early 20th centuries has become obsolete, experts say.

“Modern warfare and modern weapon systems can’t be compared like that,” Bales stressed, because today we don’t need tanks in equal number to destroy enemy tanks, but can also use drones, helicopters and other aircraft to do that task.

Also, the figures do not show details of other critical resources that are required to operate the weapons. North Korea, for instance, suffers from an acute fuel shortage, hindering its ability to operate training aircraft. In the case of North Korea, Bales said, “the size of the military stands in contrast to its quality. Its air force, in particular, is obsolete, with its most modern aircraft dating back to the 1980s.”

South Korea, on the other hand, is equipped with state-of-the-art military gear, thanks largely to weapons deliveries from the US and Germany.

Watch video01:56

Trump, Kim step up saber-rattling competition

What the figures additionally show is what areas each country’s military focused on. Being an island nation, Japan has paid attention to strengthening the capabilities of its navy and air force. In the Koreas, however, the army occupies the central role.

The relatively high number of heavy tanks and artillery guns in both those countries show that their armies are designed for large field battles and the defense of their borders. The large number of North Korean submarines is due to their high deterrent potential. And the figures also prove all the countries’ determination to defend themselves militarily.

Technological gap

Still, all this would be meaningless when compared to the mighty US military machine.

A look at the country’s strategic weapons, including long-range missiles and nuclear warheads, makes it clear immediately. China and the US have such capabilities, unlike South Korea and Japan.

North Korea is striving hard to acquire them, but has faced daunting challenges in developing reliable long-range missiles. The US’ weapons technology is so far advanced that North Korea hardly has any chance of competing with it on a technological level, observers reckon.

“With all the technical considerations, however, one should not forget the mutual vulnerability of North and South Korea,” says BICC analyst Bale.

About 70 percent of North Korea’s ground troops are stationed along the border. And South Korea’s bustling capital, Seoul, is just 50 kilometers away from the frontier. “Even with obsolete technology, a devastating attack on South Korea can be carried out with the large number of tanks, artillery and armored personnel carriers.”

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