Here's the kind of damage North Korea could do if it went to war

North-Korea-armament-military-DMZ

Photo: Wikipedia/Henrik Ishihara Globaljuggler

Tensions spiked between North and South Korea over the weekend after a string of escalations that started with a North Korean land mine seriously injuring two South Korean soldiers on August 4.

On August 20, the Koreas exchanged artillery fire along their demilitarized zone, though no one was reported injured. This was followed by North Korea ordering its front-line troops onto a war footing in a drastic rising of tensions.

Tensions relaxed on Monday, after North Korea apologized for the land mine but also dropped 70% of its submarine fleet off radar.

North-Korea-armament-military-Submarine

Photo: Wikipedia/Wapster

The entire episode shows just how precarious the situation remains between the Koreas. In the event of a war, North Korea would most likely be overthrown by the combined forces of South Korea and the US, but not before Kim Jong Un and his military would be able to do some serious damage to North Korea’s southern neighbor.

Harry J. Kazianis, writing for The National Interest, notes that the Kim regime has five weapons that could cause mass fatalities and sow extreme panic throughout South Korea and even possibly in the US.

Firstly, Kazianis notes that Pyongyang could use dirty bombs against South Korea. North Korea is known to have dug tunnels beneath the demilitarized zone that divides the peninsula.

North Korean operatives could sneak through the tunnels carrying the materials necessary to plant dirty bombs in major cities throughout the South.

Additionally, Kazianis writes, North Korea could simply place raw nuclear material on a short-range rocket bound for Seoul. Even if inaccurate, the weapon would still cause mass panic.

Secondly, North Korea could bring to bear chemical and biological weapons against South Korea. The Nuclear Threat Initiative notes that Pyongyang most likely has the third-largest stockpile of chemical weapons on the planet, including various nerve agents.

Additionally, a North Korean defector to Finland brought 15 gigabytes of data that showed Pyongyang tested chemical and biological agents on its own citizens.

North Korea has also released images in which Kim is seen touring the Pyongyang Bio-technical Institute, which is intended to produce fertilizer. Numerous weapons experts, however, have said the facility is probably a cover and can instead produce anthrax on a military level.

The third extremely dangerous tool North Korea could use in a war would be a nuclear strike against Alaska or Hawaii. The success of any strike is a definite long shot, Kazianis says, but it could be increasingly plausible in the coming decades.

North Korea has spent tremendous capital on both its nuclear- and ballistic-missile programs and, in the event of a nuclear strike, the success would not be measured by the number of casualties as much as by the mayhem it could cause.

In April, Adm. Bill Gortney, the general in charge of North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad), said at a Pentagon news conference that North Korea had “the ability to put a nuclear weapon on a KN-08 and shoot it at the homeland.” Gortney, however, did qualify his statement by saying he was confident that US missile defense would be able to down any incoming North Korean missile before it struck.

Fourthly, North Korea could cause extreme damage against South Korea simply with conventional artillery. The Kim regime has the world’s largest artillery force, with about 10,000 active pieces, all of which are aimed directly at Seoul.

North-Korea-armament-military-artillery

Photo: Republic of Korea Armed Forces

Though a vast majority of these weapons may not function properly or may be incapable of hitting Seoul because of a lack of maintenance and their old age, the barrage is still enough to spread mass panic and cause a huge number of civilian casualties.

North Korea’s last major lethal weapon, according to Kazianis, is its cybermilitary abilities. Little is definitively known about North Korea’s cyberarmy and its capabilities. But this army has proved extremely adept.

The US has blamed and sanctioned North Korea for the massive hack of Sony in December 2014. Additionally, South Korea blamed Pyongyang for cyberattacks against a nuclear reactor in the country in December 2014.

The fear is that as North Korea’s cyberarmy becomes increasingly competent, it may decide to cripple South Korea’s electrical grid or hack into various South Korean or US military installations.

Still, even with these potentially lethal weapons at its disposal, North Korea remains a hermit state. And though Pyongyang may be able to deal substantial damage to South Korea in the opening salvos of a war, it would be highly unlikely that Pyongyang could win any military conflict given the staunch backing of South Korea by the US.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

TOP ARTICLES
Why the 'Butcher of Bosnia' faces a life sentence for war crimes

Ratko Mladic, a former Serbian general, will receive a verdict from the International Criminal Tribunal for war crimes he committed, to include genocide.

Russia swears a cloud of radioactive pollution is not a nuclear accident

A radioactive cloud is moving over parts of Europe, seemingly coming from Russia, reminiscent of the Chernobyl nuclear-power-plant disaster in 1986.

Taliban drug labs targeted by B-52 strikes overnight

American aircraft have targeted drug producing facilities in Afghanistan for the first time under a new strategy aimed at cutting off Taliban funding.

Why South Korea is building a unique missile interceptor

A missile system that could be used to target North Korea Scuds will cost Seoul more than $800 million to develop, a Seoul defense committee said.

SEALs honor the man who made the ‘frogmen’ possible

Last week, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, a crowd gathered to commemorate the fateful event that gave rise to what would become the US Navy SEALs.

The 50 most violent cities in the world

Of the fifty cities on the list, forty-three are in Latin America, including nineteen in Brazil, eight in Mexico, and seven in Venezuela.

How the true story of Thanksgiving ended in a war

Just a generation after the famed Thanksgiving feast shared between pilgrims and Native Americans, the two groups were engaged in bloody battles.

The wounded North Korean defector is infected by an unknown parasite

The North Korean defector shot by his fellow soldiers has been found to be riddled with parasites his South Korean doctors have never seen.

North Korea's emerging free market threatens to topple the regime

Kim Jong Un's regime of dictatorship continues to be threatened as North Korea advances into the free market. Capitalism could be hero here.

This is the light attack aircraft the Saudis might buy

The Textron Scorpion's production-ready version will be at the Dubai Air Show, and the plane could end up being purchased by the Royal Saudi Air Force.