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Here’s what the experts think are the true capabilities of the North Korean military
Experts assess the strengths and weaknesses of the North Korean military in a potential conflict.
In his New Year’s address, the leader of North Korea Kim Jong Un cautioned the United States yet again that his country is ready for a nuclear war. “The entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons, a nuclear button is always on my desk. This is reality, not a threat,” said Kim. He added a New Year’s resolution of sorts that in 2018, North Korea will be mass-producing more nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles, to “be used only if our society is threatened.”
While bellicose rhetoric is nothing new in the relations between the two countries, there are credible warnings from observers of the situation that a war with North Korea could actually break out. So what do the experts think are the rogue nation’s true military capabilities?
Although it tested 18 missiles, including what seemed like an ICBM, as well as conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test in 2017, there are some questions about the extent of North Korea's achievements. It's not certain, for example, what kind of nuclear payload the ICMB can carry or if it can survive reentry. Still the country’s military might should not be underestimated, says Dr. Koh Yu Whan, a professor of North Korea studies at Dongguk University in Seoul.
“Even though the ICBM technology may be somewhat incomplete, Kim is asserting that because he has a nuclear deterrent, the U.S. should not make military threats but engage with North Korea towards peaceful co-existence," said Dr. Whan.
This December 12, 2017 picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on December 13, 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (2nd L) awarding scientists in the field of national defence for their success in the Hwasong-15 ICBM test launch, in Pyongyang.
Eleanor Albert from the Council on Foreign Relations, writes in her assessment of the North Korean military that the country’s nuclear weaponry includes somewhere between 15 and 60 bombs, depending on whom you ask. The U.S. intelligence believes in the higher number.
North Korea’s most formidable threat to America could consist of a nuclear warhead carried by its new Hwasong-15 ICBM. In a November 2017 test, the missile hit an altitude of 4,475 kilometers (2,780 miles) and flew 1,000 kilometers (590 miles), as was reported by North Korea. The Hwasong-15’s potential range is 13,000 kilometers (8,100 miles), according to estimates by analysts. That means it could reach anywhere on the U.S. mainland.
This photo taken on November 29, 2017 and released on November 30, 2017 by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows people in Pyongyang celebrating the test of a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
The only major questions remaining about these missiles, say observers is that they may have older and unreliable navigation, still from the Soviet Union days. There have been recent defectors, however, who reported that the country has started to use a newer GPS guidance system, so it’s possible the missiles are getting more accurate as well.
The nuclear test carried out by the regime in September 2017 was possibly its largest yet, with the yield of the bomb put at up to 100 kilotons. This can also indicate the country developed a hydrogen bomb. By comparison, the bomb dropped by the U.S. on Hiroshima had a yield of 16 kilotons.
“We’re going to have to learn to live with North Korea’s ability to target the United States with nuclear weapons,” said Jeffrey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute of Strategic Studies.
Other formidable military capabilities by North Korea may include an an arsenal of 2,500 to 5,000 tons of chemical weapons that include sarin, mustard gas and nerve agents. These can be fired from shells, rockets or missiles and the Korean People Army conducts training to prepare for fighting in a contaminated area.
The country might also have some biological weaponry, able to produce anthrax and smallpox.
As far as its manpower, North Korea has the world’s fourth largest military in the world with more 1.1. million active personnel and another 600,000 in reserve. All citizens are required to serve in its army.
The U.S. has about 1.3 million active troops, with 865,000 in reserve.
A 2016 report by the South Korean Ministry of National Defense estimated that the North Korean air force consists of 1,300 aircraft. It also has about 5,500 multiple-rocket launchers, 4,300 tanks, 2,500 armored vehicle, 430 combatant vessels, 250 amphibious vessels and 70 submarines.
By comparison, accordion to the Global Firepower index for 2017, the U.S. has about 6,000 tanks and 13,000 aircraft.
Korean People's Army (KPA) tanks are displayed during a military parade marking the 105th anniversary of the birth of late North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang on April 15, 2017. (Photo credit: ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korea also has strong cyberattack capabilities, known to have made bold attacks on South Korean banks, Sony Pictures, and even stealing $81 million from a Bangladeshi bank account at the Federal Reserve in 2016.
Another, perhaps more fantastical, military threat from North Korea may include a nuclear EMP attack - a warning voiced recently by military intelligence experts before a Congressional panel.
No overview of North Korean military might would be complete without mentioning its guiding principles of juche (self-reliance) and songun (politics that places the military first), writes Eleanor Albert. The military plays a major role in politics and the country’s leader Kim Jong-un sees nuclear weapons as essential to the survival of his regime.
While it appears that North Korea is truly a country built for war, most analysts would not dare say that the United States cannot soundly and quickly defeat it. America has the world’s most powerful and most modern military. But the costs could be unbearable. It is estimated a war with North korea would claim the lives of 20,000 per day in South Korea, even before the use of nuclear weapons, which are likely to be turned towards the U.S.
People watch a television news screen showing pictures of US President Donald Trump (C) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (R) at a railway station in Seoul on November 29, 2017. (Photo credit: JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
And how quickly will they reach for nuclear weapons? Daniel Pinkston, a defense strategy expert in South Korea, thinks since North Korea would not be able to sustain a protracted conventional war against the U.S., it would opt for the nuclear option early.
Join Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and best-selling author Charles Duhigg as he interviews Victoria Montgomery Brown, co-founder and CEO of Big Think, live at 1pm EDT tomorrow.
Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.
Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.
But science loves a good challenge<p>The mystery remained unsolved until 2005, when French scientists <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~audoly/" target="_blank">Basile Audoly</a> and <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~neukirch/" target="_blank">Sebastien Neukirch </a>won an <a href="https://www.improbable.com/ig/" target="_blank">Ig Nobel Prize</a>, an award given to scientists for real work which is of a less serious nature than the discoveries that win Nobel prizes, for finally determining why this happens. <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/spaghetti/audoly_neukirch_fragmentation.pdf" target="_blank">Their paper describing the effect is wonderfully funny to read</a>, as it takes such a banal issue so seriously. </p><p>They demonstrated that when a rod is bent past a certain point, such as when spaghetti is snapped in half by bending it at the ends, a "snapback effect" is created. This causes energy to reverberate from the initial break to other parts of the rod, often leading to a second break elsewhere.</p><p>While this settled the issue of <em>why </em>spaghetti noodles break into three or more pieces, it didn't establish if they always had to break this way. The question of if the snapback could be regulated remained unsettled.</p>
Physicists, being themselves, immediately wanted to try and break pasta into two pieces using this info<p><a href="https://roheiss.wordpress.com/fun/" target="_blank">Ronald Heisser</a> and <a href="https://math.mit.edu/directory/profile.php?pid=1787" target="_blank">Vishal Patil</a>, two graduate students currently at Cornell and MIT respectively, read about Feynman's night of noodle snapping in class and were inspired to try and find what could be done to make sure the pasta always broke in two.</p><p><a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-mathematicians-solve-age-old-spaghetti-mystery-0813" target="_blank">By placing the noodles in a special machine</a> built for the task and recording the bending with a high-powered camera, the young scientists were able to observe in extreme detail exactly what each change in their snapping method did to the pasta. After breaking more than 500 noodles, they found the solution.</p>
The apparatus the MIT researchers built specifically for the task of snapping hundreds of spaghetti sticks.
(Courtesy of the researchers)
What possible application could this have?<p>The snapback effect is not limited to uncooked pasta noodles and can be applied to rods of all sorts. The discovery of how to cleanly break them in two could be applied to future engineering projects.</p><p>Likewise, knowing how things fragment and fail is always handy to know when you're trying to build things. Carbon Nanotubes, <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/carbon-nanotube-space-elevator" target="_self">super strong cylinders often hailed as the building material of the future</a>, are also rods which can be better understood thanks to this odd experiment.</p><p>Sometimes big discoveries can be inspired by silly questions. If it hadn't been for Richard Feynman bending noodles seventy years ago, we wouldn't know what we know now about how energy is dispersed through rods and how to control their fracturing. While not all silly questions will lead to such a significant discovery, they can all help us learn.</p>
Reaching beyond the stereotypes of meditation and embracing the science of mindfulness.
- There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to what mindfulness is and what meditation can do for those who practice it. In this video, professors, neuroscientists, psychologists, composers, authors, and a former Buddhist monk share their experiences, explain the science behind meditation, and discuss the benefits of learning to be in the moment.
- "Mindfulness allows us to shift our relationship to our experience," explains psychologist Daniel Goleman. The science shows that long-term meditators have higher levels of gamma waves in their brains even when they are not meditating. The effect of this altered response is yet unknown, though it shows that there are lasting cognitive effects.
- "I think we're looking at meditation as the next big public health revolution," says ABC News anchor Dan Harris. "Meditation is going to join the pantheon of no-brainers like exercise, brushing your teeth and taking the meds that your doctor prescribes to you." Closing out the video is a guided meditation experience led by author Damien Echols that can be practiced anywhere and repeated as many times as you'd like.
A study looks at the performance benefits delivered by asthma drugs when they're taken by athletes who don't have asthma.
- One on hand, the most common health condition among Olympic athletes is asthma. On the other, asthmatic athletes regularly outperform their non-asthmatic counterparts.
- A new study assesses the performance-enhancement effects of asthma medication for non-asthmatics.
- The analysis looks at the effects of both allowed and banned asthma medications.
WADA uncertainty<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzNzU0OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMDc4NjUwN30.fFTvRR0yJDLtFhaYiixh5Fa7NK1t1T4CzUM0Yh6KYiA/img.jpg?width=980" id="01b1b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2fd91a47d91e4d5083449b258a2fd63f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="urine sample for drug test" />
Image source: joel bubble ben/Shutterstock<p>When inhaled β-agonists first came out just before the 1972 Olympics, they were immediately banned altogether by the WADA as possible doping substances. Over the years, the WADA has reexamined their use and refined the organization's stance, evidence of the thorniness of finding an equitable position regarding their use. As of January 2020, only three β-agonists are allowed — salbutamol, formoterol, and salmeterol —and only in inhaled form. Oral consumption appears to have a greater effect on performance.</p>
The study<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzNzU0Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTIzMDQyMX0.Gk4v-7PCA7NohvJjw12L15p7SumPCY0tLdsSlMrLlGs/img.jpg?width=980" id="d3141" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ebe7b30a315aeffcb4fe739095cf0767" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="runner at starting position on track" />
Image source: MinDof/Shutterstock<p>Of primary interest to the authors of the study is confirming and measuring the performance improvement to be gained from β-agonists when they're ingested by athletes who don't have asthma.</p><p>The researchers performed a meta-analysis of 34 existing studies documenting 44 randomized trials reporting on 472 participants. The pool of individuals included was broad, encompassing both untrained and elite athletes. In addition, lab tests, as opposed to actual competitions, tracked performance. The authors of the study therefore recommend taking its conclusions with just a grain of salt.</p><p>The effects of both WADA-banned and approved β-agonists were assessed.</p>
Approved β-agonists and non-asthmatic athletes<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzNzU1MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMzkxODk0M30.3RssFwk_tWkHRkEl_tIee02rdq2tLuAePifnngqcIr8/img.jpg?width=980" id="39a99" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b1fe4a580c6d4f8a0fd021d7d6570e2a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="vaulter clearing pole" />
Image source: Andrey Yurlov/Shutterstock<p>What the meta-analysis showed is that the currently approved β-agonists didn't significantly improve athletic performance among those without asthma — what very slight benefit they <em>may</em> produce is just enough to prompt the study's authors to write that "it is still uncertain whether approved doses improve anaerobic performance." They note that the tiny effect did increase slightly over multiple weeks of β-agonist intake.</p>
Banned β-agonist and non-asthmatic athletes<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzNzU1Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjI3ODU5Mn0.vyoxSE5EYjPGc2ZEbBN8d5F79nSEIiC6TUzTt0ycVqc/img.jpg?width=980" id="de095" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="02fdd42dfda8e3665a7b547bb88007ef" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="swimmer mid stroke" />
Image source: Nejron Photo/Shutterstock<p>The study found that for athletes without asthma, however, the use of currently banned β-agonists did indeed result in enhanced performance. The authors write, "Our meta-analysis shows that β2-agonists improve anaerobic performance by 5%, an improvement that would change the outcome of most athletic competitions."</p><p>That 5 percent is an average: 70-meter sprint performance was improved by 3 percent, while strength performance, MVC (maximal voluntary contraction), was improved by 6 percent.</p><p>The analysis also revealed that different results were produced by different methods of ingestion. The percentages cited above were seen when a β-agonist was ingested orally. The effect was less pronounced when the banned substances were inhaled.</p><p>Given the difference between the results for allowed and banned β-agonists, the study's conclusions suggest that the WADA has it about right, at least in terms of selection of allowable β-agonists, as well as the allowable dosage method.</p>