North Korea has unleashed a series of threats against the United States and South Korea, since the last round of United Nations sanctions in 2013. North Korea’s nuclear programme remains a source of deep concern to the International Community. North Korea is now a de facto nuclear state, a more military than a political problem, and an issue that is more deterrent than non- proliferation. Pyongyang now has all the elements necessary for an operational nuclear force. The purpose of this paper is to determine whether North Korea is the greatest threat to the United States.
North Korea is much more equipped militarily as compared to 10-15 years ago. Even though their conventional forces are somewhat antiquated. The basic reality is if a conflict were to take place, a full-blown conflict undoubtedly the United States with its South Korean ally would prevail. North Korea cannot win this conflict. The North Korean leadership may be a leader that values or appreciates the importance of taking the risk but it is still rational. North Korea does have the largest standing Army in the world- 1.1 million active-duty troops and 5.5 million reserves. But they lack the capabilities to mobilize their forces in a foreign country- except perhaps China and South Korea. Furthermore, North Korean soldiers are not trained to any proper degree. Troops are known to be extremely malnourished and are frequently deployed to bring in the harvest of crops- they aren’t prepared for an all-out war, especially against the United States.
If for whatsoever reason, the United States had to invade North Korea, then perhaps North Korea could win. US Troops on the Korean Peninsula- numbering roughly 28500, would be outnumbered. But most of the fighting in such a conflict would fall on South Korean troops. South Korea currently has around 627500 active duty personnel and around 5.2 million in reserve. The United States also has plans in place to rapidly move personnel in the region- such as the 45000 US Troops stationed in Japan. Literally, in any other scenario, North Korea will be at a supreme- loss situation. There is a doubt whether North Korea could even take on South Korea themselves, they’d require Chinese support to break out of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) or position their navy off the coast. China has its own treaty of relationship with North Korea, agreed in 1967. China would worry that a conflict would create a security vacuum; north of the DMZ, that would be filled by the US and its South Korean ally posing a security risk to China. They would feel compelled in the event of a crisis, to protect their own strategic space.
North Korea is a massive risk to the world- not because of their military, but because of the following factors:-
(i) They have an absolutely massive population that, if displaced would effectively be a socio-economic nuke in East Asia, and
(ii) Their internal power structure is at constant risk of collapse and rebellion which makes the first point not only a possibility but a very likely one.
North Korea needs to be managed, but they are not an immediate risk to the US military at all. The US outmatches North Korea when it comes to air power. The US military’s total aircraft strength is roughly 13760. North Korea’s total airpower, meanwhile is under 1000 aircraft.
As far as International threat is concerned, radical Islamic terrors are far more dangerous than North Korea which can be negotiated.