North Korea has a bad habit of flexing its military muscles and talking bellicose smack. And they’ve been making a serious attempt to update their arsenal. It is widely accepted that the country has nuclear capabilities, though many question their ability to deliver those warheads out of their own borders.
But they do have conventional weapons. They may be antiquated, but there are many of them. So what would we be facing if they decide to push back against President Trump’s recent show of force in the region?
Business Insider put together a photo retrospective of some of the bigger threats. Number one on their list is the population of North Korea. There are a lot of them, and military service is compulsory for men (and many women end up conscripted, too).
Many fear the extended range of the larger missiles. Taepodon-2s, like this one, actually have a serviceable range that threatens much of the region (and possibly some of the United States). If they’re going to be delivering nuclear warheads, these would pose a threat.
Their Hwasong missiles could reach South Korea and Japan.
As far as South Korea is concerned, the North’s smaller rockets pose a serious threat. The country has many of these on the border. The damage would be more localized, but the sheer volume of fire would make shooting them down complicated.
They’ve also got big guns mounted on the border pointing south. This would be most problematic for any invasion force coming by land, but the range of these guns still makes them a threat to some of the South Korean population.
Once the military of North Korea is mobilized, they will arrive in a variety of antiquated vehicles. Their air force has a decidedly old-school feel. This Mig-29 is about as new as they get.
They do have a wide variety of artillery that is relatively mobile. These 170mm Koksan guns are effective, but slow moving. They’d likely be easy targets for the South Korean air force.
Their Pokpung-ho tanks are solid, too, but already 20 years old.
The country has many other vehicles at its disposal, most are patterned off of Chinese machines. The rest are left overs from their partnerships with the old Soviet Union.
As for their ships, North Korea does have a navy. Their boats float. When facing the combined strength of the U.S., South Korea, and possibly Japan, floating may not be enough.
They do have a large fleet of submarines. While they’re not state of the art, the number makes them daunting. They are believed to be diesel submarines with limited battery power. They have to operate on the surface to charge batteries that allow them to dive for short periods of time.
When all of these resources are exhausted, the army will arrive. The infantry is outfitted with equally antiquated weaponry. Their machine guns may be their biggest liability. Their Type 73 guns are reportedly in various states of decay. That doesn’t mean they won’t work.
Most soldiers will be armed with a variation of the standard AK-47 pattern rifles. These always work.
Others may be carrying even more antiquated firearms. These Type 64 pistols are still in service, despite the nearly century old design.
The Type 70 looks quite up-to-date by comparison.
The PPSH-41 is a hold-over from the Soviet design common at the end of World War II.
The lucky few in the elite units may get issued Czechoslovakian Skorpions.
There are other possibilities at play, too. The Chinese have copied the M4 rather well, and there are some of these in North Korea. But not many. The reality is that the North Korean regime has been operating on hand-me-downs for generations. Their only real access to modern weaponry would come from their own in-house abilities, and few of those ever make it onto display.
The real threat that everyone fears (beyond an endless stream of 25 million people either fighting or fleeing) is that North Korea’s traditional allies would, as they did 50 years ago, take sides. At that point, this list of weapons becomes very different.
The biggest day for United States and North Korean relations is this Saturday, when the North plans to mark some important military commemorations. Some analysts expect some provocative displays, displays like missile tests that are intended to provoke the United States.