The next leader of North Korea will inherit an impoverished, isolated country with a large army brimming with artillery, chemical weapons and a small nuclear arsenal.
Here are the basic facts of North Korea's military, which has an estimated annual budget of four to seven billion dollars:
North Korea has enough plutonium to build six or seven atomic weapons, according to international estimates. It remains unclear whether the North can manufacture nuclear warheads for its missiles but analysts believe it is likely close to that point.
The North has at least 1,000 missiles of various types, including some with a range of more than 3,000 kilometers (1,860 miles), according to South Korea's defense ministry. It has also test-launched three intercontinental Taepodong missiles.
CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS:
US and allied military planners believe that the North would be overwhelmed in a conventional war with the South, but they worry how Pyongyang would use its arsenal of chemical and biological weapons.
The North has a large stockpile of 2,500-5,000 tons of chemical weapons, Seoul's defense ministry and other estimates say, enough to inflict terrible casualties on South Korea.
The chemical agents could be delivered with long-range artillery, multiple rocket launchers, ballistic missiles, aircraft and naval ships.
The North also has a biological weapons program but analysts say it is unclear if the regime has moved beyond the research and development phase.
Pyongyang is believed to possess anthrax, mustard gas, sarin, botulism and phosgene.
With conscription starting at age 17, the armed forces currently number about 1.2 million. The country also has reserves of 7.7 million.
The army has a vast array of heavy guns pointed at Seoul. The weaponry includes 3,500 main battle tanks, 560 light tanks, 2,500 armored personnel carriers, 3,500 pieces of towed artillery, 4,400 pieces of self-propelled artillery, 2,500 multiple rocket launchers, 7,500 mortars, an unknown number of anti-tank guided weapons, 1,700 recoilless launchers, and 11,000 air defense guns, according to US government estimates and analysts.
The navy has a large fleet of submarines, estimated at 92.
It also has three frigates, six corvettes, 43 missile craft, 158 large patrol craft, 103 fast torpedo craft, more than 334 patrol force craft, 10 amphibious ships, two coastal defense missile batteries, 130 hovercraft, 23 minesweepers, eight midget ships, and four survey vessels.
The air force, designed for quick strikes across the border in South Korea, has an estimated 80 bombers, 541 fighters and ground attack fighters, 316 transport planes, 588 transport helicopters, 24 attack helicopters and at least one unmanned drone as well as an ample supply of air-to-air missiles and surface-to-air missiles.
by Chris Lefkow
(c) 2011 AFP
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