North Korea’s military escapades were back in the headlines in December, after state media in the secretive country reported news of two large-scale military drills involving rocket launchers and fighter jets.
Some analysts believe that Kim Jong Un, the country’s despotic leader, is gearing up for war against South Korea — pictures accompanying one report even showed a mock-up of the Blue House, South Korea’s presidential residence, being used as a target by artillery. Others, however, say the drills are the latest in a long line of “sabre-rattling” manoeuvres designed to intimidate neighbours.
In either case, the country’s missile development and huge artillery stocks pose a significant danger to South Korea and the rest of the world.
It is one of the world’s most secretive countries, so the information largely comes from other sources, but the state’s propaganda efforts mean there are plenty of pictures of the country’s colossal military capacity. Take a look.
The largest part of the military is the Korean People’s Army Ground Force, which includes about 1.2 million active personnel and millions more civilians who are effectively reservists. (Photo: Reuters/KCNA)
The air force has some semi-modern fighter jets, like the MiG-29, which was built in the later years of the Soviet Union, but most of its air force is made up of “less capable” jets and even biplanes.
North Korea’s elderly air force would be easily outmatched by South Korea’s, and the most threatening equipment belongs to other parts of the military. (Reuters/KCNA)
One of the most threatening things in the North’s arsenal is its powerful conventional artillery, with hundreds of these 170mm Koksan guns threatening South Korea. (Photo: Reuters/KCNA)
And those are actually small in comparison with some of the massive fixed guns in place to fire on South Korean islands if a conflict breaks out. (Photo: Reuters/KCNA)
Despite being “unsophisticated” and ageing, North Korea’s submarine force is one of the world’s largest. A small submarine sank a South Korean ship in 2010, killing 46 seamen. (Photo: Reuters/KCNA)
North Korea’s navy is the smallest of its military branches, and the non-submarine part is made up mostly of “ageing, though numerous, small patrol craft,” according to the Pentagon. (Photo: Reuters/KCNA)
The launch of satellite-carrying Unha rockets is watched closely, since it’s the same delivery system as North Korea’s Taepodong-2 ballistic missile, which was tested successfully in December 2012 and January 2016. (Photo: Reuters/KNCA)
Though the equipment is outdated, North Korea does possess some armoured vehicles, which are largely copies of Soviet or Chinese-made models. (Photo: Reuters/KNCA)
In addition to its long-range missiles and nuclear programme, North Korea has a line of shorter-range Hwasong missiles capable of hitting Japan. (Photo: Reuters/KCNA)
Despite being developed more than 20 years ago, Pokpung-ho battle tanks pictured on the left here are some of the most advanced equipment operated by the ground forces. (Photo: Reuters/KCNA)
*Mike Bird contributed reporting to an earlier version of this article.