WASHINGTON • Renewed conflict on the Korean peninsula could kill hundreds of thousands of people in the first few days alone even if no nuclear weapons are involved, according to a new report by the United States Congressional Research Service.
Given population densities on the peninsula, military conflict "could affect upwards of 25 million people on either side of the border, including at least 100,000 US citizens", according to the 62-page assessment sent to US lawmakers last Friday.
North Korea can rely on hundreds of thousands of artillery rounds within striking distance of Seoul, making it difficult for even a pre-emptive strike to prevent mass casualties.
Even if North Korea "uses only its conventional munitions, estimates range from between 30,000 and 300,000 dead in the first days of fighting," the report said, citing North Korea's ability to fire 10,000 rounds per minute.
Moreover, the conflict could spread quickly to involve forces from China, Japan and Russia.
"Such a conflict could also involve a massive mobilisation of US forces onto the Korean Peninsula, and high military casualty rates," it said.
Number of rounds per minute North Korea is able to fire in a war.
Number of US citizens likely to be affected if a war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula.
"Complicating matters, should China choose to join the conflict, those casualty rates could grow further and could potentially lead to military conflict beyond the peninsula."
The report, however, noted that some analysts have said allowing North Korea to acquire the ability to develop a missile capable of delivering nuclear warheads to the continental US would be of even greater risk than the outbreak of regional war.