Most Americans have heard of the Korean War. Many are not aware, however, that the war never ended -- and many more don't know that South Korea has never signed the 1953 Armistice.
Like a simmering pot, the Korean conflict has been on the verge of boiling over for many years and, in the past several months, the heat has been ratcheted up. During the past several weeks the political stew in the pot has again reached the boiling point. The sinking of the SKorean naval vessel, Cheonan, in the Yellow Sea by a NKorean mini-sub that launched an unprovoked torpedo attack has lit the fuse on a possible resumption of an all out war.
NKorea has already reaffirmed it's at war with the United States
The NKorean leader then announced that his country considered itself fully at war with the U.S. Immediately afterward, the NKoreans ramped up their weapons sales -- including nuclear weapons technology and long range missile parts -- to Iran and Syria. They have since expanded that to include Venezuela, Cuba and possibly Nicaragua.
Although the arms sales -- primarily WMDs -- to Third World dictatorships have kept the NKorean government from total collapse, most of its people are starving and the only well-fed and well-clothed NKoreans are the military and the political elite.
NKorea has built and maintained a well-equipped military force that experts estimate numbers about one million. The army is dedicated and swears allegiance to the country's tyrant. Much of the army is deployed within 50 miles of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that roughly follows the 49th Parallel dividing the two Koreas.
NKorean experts have stated for the record that any full-blown hostilities erupting between the North and South will lead to the death of more than 100,000 SKoreans living in Seoul within the first hour.
The casualties would not be inflicted directly by the NKorean army, but by the well-armed rocketry corps. With an estimated tens of thousands of rockets able to reach Seoul within a matter of minutes, the bombardment of the city would be widespread, lethal and devastating. The NKorean rockets are armed with conventional high-explosives, nerve gas and bio-warheads.
SKorean defense forces are augmented by 28,000 American troops. Although the number at one time was well above 50,000, during the last decade many of the troops have been withdrawn from the Peninsula. Military experts agree that, during the first few days of a resurgence of the Korean War, up to half of the American force stationed there may suffer casualties.
China, a wild card
During the Korean War, Chinese forces joined the NKoreans and fought air and ground battles against the United Nations, American and SKorean forces. However, whether they will lend air support to NKorea if another war breaks out is a complete unknown. There are both advantages and disadvantages for involvement by China.
The Chinese may have already signaled their hand by their stance on the torpedo attack. Despite the fact that the SKoreans recovered damning forensic evidence -- torpedo fragments on the bottom of the Yellow Sea contained explosives manufactured in NKorea and casings etched with NKorean markings -- China has said the SKoreans haven't proved their case.