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How a modern-day Korean war may unfold – if Kim Jong-un follows through on his threats

While such bellicose rhetoric would normally be dismissed – Kim could just be posturing ahead of South Korean elections on April 10 – two prominent analysts set off a round of discussion among North Korea watchers with an article suggesting that this time Kim isn’t bluffing.

“Like his grandfather in 1950, Kim Jong-un has made a strategic decision to go to war,” former CIA officer Robert Carlin and nuclear scientist Siegfried Hecker wrote in early 2024 on the website 38 North, which focuses on North Korea. They didn’t forecast how soon that could take place.

Seoul’s response to all the speculation has been blunt: “The Kim regime will meet its end” if it pursues all-out war, South Korea’s Defence Ministry said in January.

Here are the potential scenarios if Kim Jong-un decides to make good on his threats to attack South Korea.

Back in 1950, North Korean troops invaded South Korea, catching the US off guard. The forces of Kim Il-sung – Kim Jong-un’s grandfather – took over much of the peninsula before US and South Korean forces counter-attacked. China’s intervention led to a stalemate that resulted in a ceasefire but no formal peace treaty, and the Korean peninsula has remained split at around the 38th parallel ever since.

Kim Jong-un is unlikely to risk a similar invasion. But he has shown an appetite for smaller provocations that could spin out of control – a trait shared by his father, Kim Jong-il.


Residents on Korean border island live in fear amid heightened North-South tensions

South Korea has since pledged that another attack in the Yellow Sea would be met by an even stronger response, raising the chance for miscalculations on both sides that could quickly escalate.

Any peripheral attack that escalates would immediately