North Korea's recent nuclear test and belligerent talk has put a
spotlight on the Korean Peninsula. It has long been one of the most
militarized zones in the world.
Since its nuclear test Monday,
North Korea has issued a stream of harsh rhetoric, even declaring that
the armistice that ended fighting in the Korean War is null and void.
Experts on North Korea say its tough talk is not unusual.
Kim Tae-woo is the vice president of the Korea Institute for Defense Analysis in the South Korean capital, Seoul.
"This is very normal kind of language [for North Korea]," Kim said. " We already get used to that kind of practice."
he says North Korea does appear to be trying to provoke some sort of
reaction from South Korea and other countries with its nuclear test.
The bitter divide between communist North Korea and democratic South Korea has left a legacy of military force on the peninsula.
Kim says North Korea has long maintained one of the largest armies in the world - with more than one million active-duty troops.
when we consider the total size of North Korean population, slightly
over 20 million, North Korea has over seven million regular troops and
reserve forces," Kim said. "This is the reason why they call North
Korea a barracks country."
Seoul has capabilities too
On the southern side of the
Demilitarized Zone dividing the peninsula, South Korea has 670,000
active duty troops, with about 2.5 million reservists, out of a
population of about 48 million people.
In addition, the United
States keeps 28,000 troops in South Korea. An American-led United
Nations force fought alongside South Korea after the North invaded in
1950. Although active fighting halted in 1953, Seoul and Pyongyang have
never signed a peace treaty, leaving them technically at war.
the numbers may seem to favor North Korea, analysts are quick to note
that its impoverished economy means the military lacks modern
equipment. On the other hand, South Korea, one of the largest
economies in the world, has a well-equipped force, able to use the
latest high-technology weaponry.
In addition, there are about
70,000 U.S. troops in Japan and tens of thousands of others in Hawaii
and on the U.S. West Coast, who could be called in to help South Korea,
if hostilities resume.
US says it will not attack North
North Korea maintains that the American
troops in the South threaten its survival, despite U.S. pledges that it
will not attack the North.
During the past six decades, violence
between North and South has occasionally flared. For instance, the
North Korean and South Korean navies have clashed several times near
their maritime border to the west of the peninsula.
tough talk from Pyongyang, several analysts on the Korean security
situation say they expect a few more such clashes in the coming months,
but nothing more serious. They say anything more would be too risky