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North Korea military has an edge over South, but wouldn't win a war, study finds

A South Korean think tank gave North Korea the edge in the early days of any war with the South because of its numbers and offensive position.

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The North has come under international sanctions since 2006 for testing nuclear devices and long-range missiles. In late 2010, it unveiled a uranium enrichment facility, which has opened a second route to make an atomic bomb along with its plutonium program.

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Analysts say that the young and inexperienced new leader, Kim Jong-un, who is heading a third generation of dynastic rule in the North, will stick to his father's militaristic approach.

They say he could take action, such as a military attack or more nuclear or missile tests, to burnish his credentials as an iron-fisted leader in the same mould as his father and grandfather.

The North has threatened to turn the South's capital, Seoul, into a "sea of fire" on numerous occasions and repeated that rhetoric again last week.

North Korea has a long history of using bellicose language against the South, especially since the conservative government of Lee Myung-bak took office in 2008 and ended a policy of engagement with the North.

The South's Defense Ministry said on Wednesday it would sign a joint operational plan with Washington this month to counter potential aggression, and increase the number of joint exercises with US forces.

The ministry said this move was part of efforts to stay alert and guard against North Korean threats.

"The threat of provocation by North Korea remains a constant possibility as Kim Jong-un moves ahead with building his regime," it said in a report to the president.

"Our military will annihilate the enemy's will to mount repeat aggression by striking back sufficiently against the source of the threat and any supporting element until the enemy threat is completely removed."

The North has in the past lashed out against joint US-South Korean drills, saying they themselves are a provocation and are a tantamount to practice for an invasion.

Seoul has revamped its defenses since 50 South Korean soldiers were killed in two separate attacks in 2010.

It has boosted artillery defenses on west coast islands where the attacks took place, and changed its combat rules permitting tougher retaliatory responses.

South Korea increased military spending by 5 percent to 33 trillion won in the 2012 budget.

(Additional reporting by Jack Kim and Iktae Park; Editing by Robert Birsel and Ed Lane)


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