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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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North Korean soldiers salute on tanks during a massive military parade marking the 65th anniversary of the communist nation's ruling Workers' Party in Pyongyang, North Korea in 2010.

Vincent Yu/AP

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North Korea's military strategy is superior to the defensive posture of its affluent neighbor to the South, an independent think-tank said on Wednesday, giving Pyongyang the edge in the early days of any war on the divided peninsula.

The Seoul-based Korea Economic Research Institute said in a report that in 2011 North Korea operated a 1.02-million-strong army and a record number of tanks, warships and air defense artillery. Total military personnel strength is 1.2 million.

"The depressing reality is it would not be entirely wrong to say North Korea's military strength is stronger," the institute said.

"We need to remember that the North is far superior in terms of the number of troops, and especially the North's military is structured in its formation and deployment with the purpose of an offensive war."

South Korea's armed forces number nearly 700,000, and they are backed by about 28,000 US troops.

But analysts say that even though the North's army far outnumbers the combined South Korean and US troop levels, the North's forces would stand no chance of winning a war because their equipment was vastly inferior.

Experts say that while the North might have the early edge in any war, US and South Korean air power alone would quickly turn the advantage their way.

The two Koreas are still technically at war having signed only an armistice to end the 1950-53 Korean War.

Offense best form of defense

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