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Yesterday, North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, announced that he believed his country will no longer need to fight wars. This was, he claimed, because of the North’s amassing of a vast arsenal of nuclear weapons guarantees its safety. In a speech recorded by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Kim said: “With our reliable and effective self-defensive nuclear deterrent, there will be no more war on this earth, and our country’s safety and future will be secured forever.”
The admission came on the 67th anniversary of the armistice that effectively ended the Korean War.
Kim said that nuclear weapons would allow North Korea to defend itself “against any high pressure and military threats of imperialists and hostile forces”.
For years, North Korea has framed its pursuit of nuclear weapons as purely defensive.
Yet, some experts say the weapons will embolden Pyongyang and allow Kim to adopt a more hostile foreign policy.
This is especially true, for many, given the North’s tendency to jump between friendly and belligerent force.
Just last month, Pyongyang ordered a joint liaison office with South Korea to be blown up in the border city of Kaesong – one of the North’s oldest settlements.
It came as tensions escalated after activists in South Korea launched 500,000 balloons carrying anti-Kim leaflets into the North.
Soon, though, after having taken the “prevailing situation” into consideration, Kim scaled back his plans for military action.
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Despite the monetary break in tensions, experts have previously warned that any war with the North would be utterly devastating.
In his 2018 Vox report, journalist Yochi Dreazen spoke to several North Korean experts and army personnel who had dealt with the dictatorship.
In one instance, he discloses how many concede that a war with Kim would require far more manpower than seen in the likes of the Iraq or Afghanistan wars.
He explained: “Estimates of the exact numbers of US troops that would take part in a push north vary widely, but current and former military planners uniformly believe it would require vastly more forces than took part in the invasions of Iraq or Afghanistan.”
Further, a 2016 South Korean white paper said the US would need to deploy 690,000 ground troops to South Korea if war broke out.
Bruce Bennett, a senior researcher at the RAND Corporation who has spent decades studying North Korea and the Kim family told Mr Dreazen that he believes the US would need to send at least 200,000 troops into North Korea.
Of this, Mr Dreazen said: “By way of comparison, that would be significantly more troops than the US had in either Iraq or Afghanistan at the peaks of those two long wars.”
Many believe that Kim would be more than willing to use his vast arsenal of nuclear weapons in the event of war.
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This would result in huge bloodshed on scales never before seen.
In 2017, writing in Foreing Policy, Jeffrey Lewis, an arms-control expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, warned that the North’s military exercises left “little doubt” over the dictatorship’s nuclear intentions.
He wrote: “What is disturbing about the situation, though, is how the war plans of North Korea, South Korea, and the United States might interact.
“North Korea’s military exercises leave little doubt that Pyongyang plans to use large numbers of nuclear weapons against U.S. forces throughout Japan and South Korea to blunt an invasion.
“In fact, the word that official North Korean statements use is ‘repel’.
“North Korean defectors have claimed that the country’s leaders hope that by inflicting mass casualties and destruction in the early days of a conflict, they can force the United States and South Korea to recoil from their invasion.”
Mr Lewis goes on to explain how the US would be naive to think that Kim would not consider committing his country to a “suicidal” nuclear war.
He continued: “While U.S. officials usually bluster that Kim would be suicidal to order the large-scale use of nuclear weapons, it’s obvious that a conventional defence didn’t work for Saddam Hussein or Muammar al-Qaddafi when they faced an onslaught of U.S. military power.
“That was suicide. Of course, that’s where those North Korean ICBMs come in: to keep Trump from doing anything regrettable after Kim Jong Un obliterates Seoul and Tokyo.”
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