Editor's note: The Wall Street Journal report on North Korean nuclear capabilities notes that an analysis by Chinese experts were relayed in a meeting with US specialists. The paper reports that the Chinese believe that North Korea may already have 20 warheads. - Tom
North Korea declares a no-sail zone for its ships off its east coast, South Korean media reports; move suggests more missile launches are possible before US defense chief visits Seoul this week - @Reuters
Editor's note: China's Xinhua is reporting, sourced to Yonhap, that 'fire' broke out on North Korea's side of the demilitarized zone, spreading to the South Korean side, though this appears to have been a fire and not an exchange of gunfire - David
North Korea's military threatens to shoot down balloons South Korean activists plan to send over border carrying 10,000 DVDs of satirical film 'The Interview'; balloon launch would be 'a de facto declaration of a war,' North Korean state media reports - @STForeignDesk
Korean peninsula is a 'touch-and-go nuclear powder keg' and North Korea has the power to deter an ''ever-increasing nuclear threat'' by the United States with a pre-emptive strike if necessary, foreign minister Ri Su Yong says - @Reuters
North Korea ( listen), officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK; Chosŏn'gŭl: 조선민주주의인민공화국; Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk), is a country in East Asia, in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. The name Korea is derived from Goryeo (or Koryo), a name used by ancient and medieval kingdoms. The capital and largest city is Pyongyang. North Korea shares a land border with China to the north and north-west, along the Amnok (Yalu) and Tumen rivers. A small section of the Tumen River also forms North Korea's short border with Russia to the northeast. The Korean Demilitarized Zone marks the boundary between North Korea and South Korea. The legitimacy of this border is not accepted by either side, as both states claim to be the legitimate government of the entire peninsula.
Korea was annexed by the Empire of Japan in 1910. In 1945, when Japan was defeated in World War II, Korea was divided into two occupied zones, with the north occupied by the Soviet Union and the south by the United States. Negotiations on unification failed, and in 1948 two separate governments were formed: the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the north, and the Republic of Korea in the south. The conflicting claims of sovereignty led to the Korean War in 1950. An armistice in 1953 committed both to a cease-fire, but the two countries remain officially at war because a formal peace treaty was never signed. Both states were accepted into the United Nations in 1991.
The DPRK officially describes itself as a socialist state and holds elections, but it is widely considered a dictatorship and has been described as totalitarian and Stalinist with an elaborate cult of personality around the Kim family. The Workers' Party of Korea, led by a member of the ruling family, holds power in the state and leads the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland of which all political officers are required to be a member. Juche, an ideology of self-reliance initiated by the country's first President, Kim Il-sung, became the official state ideology, replacing Marxism–Leninism, when the country adopted a new constitution in 1972. In 2009, references to Communism (Chosŏn'gŭl: 공산주의) were removed from the country's constitution.
The means of production are owned by the state through state-run enterprises and collectivized farms, and most services such as healthcare, education, housing and food production are state funded or subsidized. In the 1990s North Korea suffered from a famine and continues to struggle with food production.
North Korea follows Songun, or "military-first" policy in order to strengthen the country and its government. It is the world's most militarized society, with a total of 9,495,000 active, reserve, and paramilitary personnel. Its active duty army of 1.21 million is the 4th largest in the world, after China, the U.S., and India. It is a nuclear-weapons state and has an active space program. As a result of its isolation, it is sometimes known as the "hermit kingdom".