Reports of Kim Jong-un dead: Over 1 million North Korean troops threaten south

Kim has not been seen in public since April 11 and his absence has fuelled speculation about his health. Some reports say he has died while others claim he is a vegetative state following a botched operation, though none of these claims have been confirmed. But, with fears Pyongyang could react furiously to his death, how strong is the North Korean army?

According to National Interest, the country can call on 1.2 million military personnel.

More than half of these are situated near the South Korean border.

There is universal conscription for men and selective conscription for women.

According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, it can call on a reserve force of 600,000 troops and 5.9 million paramilitaries.

This gives it both the largest fighting force in the world by total numbers and per capita.

Under Kim, the country has taken over 100 missile tests.

In March, several missiles from the country were fired into the Sea of Japan.

Reports suggest it has over 4,300 tanks, 8,600 artillery pieces and 5,500 multiple rocket launcher systems.

The pariah state is believed to have conducted six nuclear tests.

The first is said to have taken place in 2006.

Conflicting estimates to the power of this test have been reported, but it is generally believed to be less than 1 kiloton.

North Korea is not a signatory of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and technology and encourage cooperation in peaceful uses of nuclear technology.


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The United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China are all NPT signatories.

India and Pakistan have also carried out nuclear tests but like North Korea have not signed the NPT.

North Korea has also not signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CNTB), a multilateral agreement in 1996 banning all nuclear explosions for civilian and military purposes.

Of the states suspected of having nuclear weapons only Russia, the UK and France have signed the CNTB, the US and China have signed and not ratified, while India and Pakistan are non-signatories.

Israel has been suspected of having nuclear weapons and have signed the treaty but have neither confirmed nor denied the existence of a nuclear programme.

Across the border, South Korea has 599,000 active personnel with a further 3.1 million in reserve.

In 1992, US President Geoege HW Bush withdrew the around 100 American tactical nuclear weapons based in South Korea.

In 2017, Song Young-moo, South Korea’s then national defence minister, mooted stationing US nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula again following tensions with the North.

In 1950, the USSR and China backed North Korea invaded the US backed South, beginning the three year Korean War, though the wider Korean conflict has survived the end of the Cold War.

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