Here’s Why S. Korea Must Remain Vigilant against N. Korea Threats

Although there is little chance for North Korea to really declare war, South Korea still needs to remain vigilant.

south-korea-north-koreaOn Sunday, North Korea responded with a threat to conduct what it called “a new form of nuclear test.”

“The DPRK (North Korea) made it very clear, we will carry out a new form of nuclear test. But I recommend you to wait and see what it is,” North Korea’s Deputy UN Ambassador Ri Tong Il said on Friday during the normally reclusive state’s third UN news conference this year.

Horrifying as it might sound, however, this announcement is nothing more than bluffing. Without money, an army or weapons, the North Koreans would not dare challenge the world because they would become the primary victims. In fact, there would be little chance for North Korea to really respond to such a war.

First of all, North Korea’s weapons are too outdated to be taken seriously. North Korea’s air force is only equipped with several (seven or eight at most) MiG-29 fighter jets that from the 1970s. Other fighter jets such as MiG-19 and MiG-21 are even older than MiG-29, and cannot be used in a war at all.

Moreover, due to Pyongyang’s terrible economy, North Korea does not have the money to train pilots. Pilots in North Korea are trained for less than one hundred hours each year. In contrast, in other countries, the time length should be at least two hundred hours in order to maintain pilot’s capacity for fight.

It becomes even worse when it comes to the North Korean navy. Broken missile boats reserved from more than 60 years ago are their only weapon. They are loud and narrow, with space for only two short men.

As for its land army, although there are several T-55 tanks, they are also too old to be real threats. The only worthy weapon North Korea currently owns is a short-range cannon. However, although they have multiple cannons, the farthest target they can reach is neighboring South Korea. Even if North Korea boasts that they have long-range missiles that can reach the United States, no one has ever seen it.

It is worth mentioning that North Korea does posses atomic bombs.

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This is the most horrifying weapon one can see on North Korea’s weapon list. However, they do not have atomic bomb carriers. The only possible way for North Korea to drop atomic bombs is by using a MiG-29 as carrier, but it is doubtful whether MiG-29s are able to do that because they are obsolete. Moreover, by no means will South Korea or America allow such a bomb carrier take off from land.

Comparing North Korea’s military force with South Korea puts things in greater perspective.

South Korea has the most advanced air defense system in the world called the Aegis Weapon System. Armed with F-15k fighter jets, a kind of fighter jet better equipped than Japan’s F-15Js, South Korea’s air force is superior to any other East Asian country.

South Korea’s land army is also equipped with K-1 and K-2 tanks, which are very advanced tanks. Moreover, the population of North Korea is less than half of South Korea’s, let alone the poor physical quality of North Korea’s soldiers. That is to say, there will be neither enough soldiers nor threatening weapons in North Korea’s hands.

Clearly, there is no contest between the Koreas when it comes to military superiority, coupled with the fact that US troops are based in South Korea. If North Korea dared to strike Seoul, South Korea would retaliate immediately with a crushing blow.

So why, therefore, does Kim Jung Un still keep annoying Westerners?

There may be two reasons: Domestically, he needs to create a false image of a mighty and strong country for the public, so they will be supportive and treat him as a national hero. Internationally, “setting a nuclear test” is more like a strategy North Korea tends to use to strengthen its hand in future negotiations with other countries.

Nevertheless, even though there is little chance for North Korea to really declare war, South Korea still needs to remain vigilant. After all, its capital Seoul is not 100 percent safe under North Korea’s threats.

Yan Cong is a Master’s student in New York University’s Political Science Department.