With Pyongyang only months away from realizing a nuclear attack force capable of reaching the United States, President Trump has decisions to make not seen since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis

The North Korea Military - 2017

By —— Bio and Archives--August 12, 2017

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To understand North Korea (NK), we need to look closely at their military. They have spent much of their nation’s treasure on their capability to wage war, to the detriment of many of their people. 

North Korea currently ranks 23 out of 133 countries in military power. Their manpower, the backbone of any military organization, is important in any war of attrition. Some nations, although technologically powerful, cannot sustain a conflict for lack of sufficient manpower. NK’s numbers say they are ready and willing to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of their ranks to maintain a war of attrition.  Even with that in mind, a prolonged conflict would probably not take place. It would most likely be a swift and decisive clash.

Their Achilles heel is their inability to produce sufficient energy to feed their weapons of war. Currently Russia and China supply the majority of North Korea’s oil with most of the petroleum coming from Russia. In the event of a military conflict, it is questionable whether Russia and China would continue exporting oil to NK. The United States, South Korea (SK) and Japan would most probably consider it an act of war.

Let’s take a look: We will put South Korea’s numbers in blue parenthesis for comparison (South Korea ranks 12 out of 133 countries in military power).


Population:  25,115,311   (50,924,192)
Manpower Available:  13,000,000   (25,610,000)
Fit for Service:  10,100,000   (21,035,000)
Reaching Military Age:  415,000   (690,000)
Total Military Personnel:  6,445,000, Active:  945,000, Reserve:  5,500,000
(5,829,750), (627,500), (5,202,750)

Air Power

Fighter Aircraft:  458   (406)
Attack Aircraft:  572   (448)
Transport Aircraft:  100 (348)
Total Helicopter Strength:  202 (709)
Attack Helicopters:  20 (81)

Army Strength

Combat Tanks:  5,025   (2,654)
Armored Fighting Vehicles:  4,100   (2,660)
Self-Propelled Artillery:  2,250   (1,990)
Towed Artillery:  4,300   (5,374)
Rocket Projectors:  2,400 (214)

Navy Strength

Total Assets:  967 (166)
Aircraft Carriers:  0 (1)
Frigates:  11 (Generally heavier than a destroyer)  (13)
Corvettes:  2 (Smallest warship that is considered a warship)  (16)
Destroyers:  0   (12)  
Submarines:  76   (15)
Patrol Craft:  438 (70)
Mine Warfare Vessels:  25   (11)

Vital Natural Resources - Petroleum (Oil)

Production: 100 bpd (barrels per day)  (500 bpd)
Consumption:  15,000 bpd   (2,325,000)
Proven Reserves: 0   (0)


Continued below...

Logistics -

Labor Force:  14,000,000   (27,250,000)
Merchant Marine Strength:  158   (786)
Major Ports/Terminals:  8   (8)
Roadway Coverage:  25,554 km   (103,029)
Railway Coverage:  5,242 km (3,381)
Serviceable Airports:  82   (111)


We did not consider financial strength because we do not believe there is much of a chance of a protracted conflict..what you got is what you have. Again, it most probably would be a quick and decisive encounter resulting in complete regime change. The people of North Korea might even welcome a chance to have sufficient food and maybe even indoor plumbing.

The sticky points would, of course, be Seoul, South Korea with a population of 10.3 million people and probably China. Chinese dead in the Korean War range between 150,000 and 400,000 dead Chinese soldiers with many Chinese veterans now feeling they were duped into answering the call. 


Would China enter the conflict like it did in the 50s or would they decide to stay out of it?  We’re guessing they will stay clear but protect their borders. They did, however, say on Friday that they will remain neutral if NK strikes first. If the United States conducts a preemptive strike against NK, they will defend them.

In the event of a regime change and even a free and united Korea, would China tolerate a free Korea on their border, especially one allied to the United States? How much damage could NK do to South Korea before we would be able to completely defeat NK? Could SK quickly field a sufficient army and missile defense system in time to fend off or severely limit an attack. Would the United States, regardless of Chinese threats, conduct a preemptive strike to attempt to neutralize the NK military before it could do any significant damage to South Korea? It is worth noting that Japan and Australia have pledged to come to our defense with Australia saying, “We are joined at the hip.”

With Pyongyang only months away from realizing a nuclear attack force capable of reaching the United States, President Trump has decisions to make not seen since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

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Ray DiLorenzo -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Ray DiLorenzo is a career pilot having retired after 22 years as a contract fire pilot with the California Department of Forestry (Cal-Fire).  He is presently affiliated with Stand Up America founded by Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely (Ret).

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