About North Korea’s Current Nuclear Power Capabilities

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Nuclear Proliferation: A Global Concern

Nuclear proliferation remains one of the most troubling issues confronting the world today. Nuclear power is generated by nuclear reactions that release nuclear energy to generate heat. The energy can be used in a variety of areas, including diesel turbines, and can be used to provide energy for nuclear power plants. Nuclear technology is also used to create nuclear bombs, the power of which is derived from nuclear reactions. Opening a nuclear power plant and developing nuclear weapons is a risky and costly operation (Toon et al, 2017). Countries that produce nuclear energy are governed by a set of treaties such as the non-proliferation treaty which aim at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and promoting cooperation among those countries. North Korea is an example of a country which has a nuclear program, its nuclear weapons have become a matter of significant concern for the international community.

History of Nuclear Development in the Country

Nuclear development in the country began after the Korean War, where the country was assisted by the Soviet Union, this was in the mid-1950. The Soviet Union was responsible for constructing a nuclear research reactor by providing training to the personnel and technical assistance. China and the Soviet Union were responsible for providing initial help to the country for their nuclear development program. But the development of the program can be largely attributed to the internal progress that the country made ( Toon et al., 2017). The country in the late 1960s expanded its nuclear research including military uses of the technology. North Korea then went ahead to acquire plutonium processing in the early 1970s. In 1985, the country joined the nuclear non-proliferation treaty as a non-nuclear weapon country (Hewitt, C. 2017). The country then threatened to withdraw from the treaty after it denied for its nuclear facilities by the IAEA. Allegations that the state had restarted its nuclear program began in October 2002, and in 2003 the country withdrew from the NPT agreement.

Current State of North Korea's Nuclear Program

North Korea has currently conducted five nuclear tests that have been successful; the tests were conducted using nuclear bombs. For a successful attack in its neighboring countries, the country needs to make small nuclear warheads that can be able to fit onto a missile. International experts have long had doubts that the country can be able to make nuclear warheads with North Korea refuting the claims by stating that it has miniaturized nuclear warheads. However, leaked information to the Washington Post in October August 2017 claimed that intelligence officials believed that the country was capable of miniaturization. (Anderson, N. D. 2017). The nuclear tests conducted by the country have proved that the bombs are very powerful with the September 2016 test indicating that the device used had an explosive yield of 10 to 30 kilotons which made it the strongest test that the country had ever conducted. Three test carried out by the country in 2006, 2009 and 2013 were done using atomic bombs, they are the kind of bombs in which atoms split unleashing large amounts of energy which can be very destructive, this process is also known as nuclear fission. Materials used by the country in their tests have also been a contentious issue, experts believe that the first three tests were conducted using plutonium, but the 2013 test is still unclear if the country used plutonium or uranium. The country recently tested an intercontinental ballistic missile which is capable of reaching the United States mainland.

North Korea's Furthest Reaching Intercontinental Ballistic Missile

North Korea's furthest reaching intercontinental ballistic missile is known as the Hwasong-14, the missile can theoretically travel 10400km, the distance was determined on July 28, 2017, in a test when it flew for forty-five minutes before landing in a sea in Japan. The missiles that North Korea fires can be intercepted using an anti-missile system although cases of missile interception failure are very common. (Cho, E. J. R. (2017). The country is, however, exploring ways on how it can improve antimissile defenses, and it is also likely to investigate others. US officials estimate that the country has 60 nuclear weapons while other sources claim that the country has the correct amount of uranium, capable of producing six nuclear bombs in a year. The country also has a hydrogen bomb; it was first tested in September 2017 when it detonated a nuclear bomb. The yield of the bomb was said to be 100 kilotons, and it was detected as an earthquake that had a magnitude of 6.3 and a depth of 23km with the tremor being felt in China. The hydrogen bomb is very dangerous; it has an impact a thousand times greater than that of the atomic bomb. If the tests are true, the country poses a lot of danger to all the countries in the world including itself.

North Korea's Increasing Nuclear Efforts

North Korea has increased its nuclear efforts under the presidency of Kim Jong-un posing an ongoing diplomatic challenge for the United States. Kim Jong-un presided over the first ICBM launch, the missile landed in the sea, but its trajectory was thought to have placed Alaska in its range (Litvak, R. S. (2017). The second ICBM test that was launched was thought to have an increased range. It appears that the tests aim to reach the United States. There is, however, little evidence as to whether the north has developed an accurate system to ensure that they strike accurately. The country's nuclear tests are getting bigger with the hydrogen bomb being tested although it has not been officially confirmed. The country is capable of uranium enrichment and producing weapon grades that are made of plutonium.

The Potential Consequences and Non-Military Options

The country is increasing its efforts towards a goal of hitting major American cities with nuclear weapons. Intelligence agencies in America believe that the country will be able to hit the US by next year while other experts think that it already has. Sending a nuclear warhead around the country is, however, difficult, and they may face a lot of challenges. North Korea's nuclear program has been known for its modest strides and failures until this year when it rushed its advances. Bringing down the nuclear warhead from space is one of the problems that the country is facing, this is because the missile warhead needs to be able to defy heat and violence due to re-entry into the atmosphere. (Lankov, A. (2017) However, if the north keeps up with the nuclear efforts that they have been carrying out, they will be able to produce a reentry vehicle if it does not have one already.

Avoiding an Escalation: The Need for Non-Military Solutions

North Korea has, however, not attacked any country yet; there are speculations that Kim Jong-un's main aim is to push other countries, particularly the United States, into negotiating directly with his government, strengthening his position within North Korea itself. Non-military options are the only way that we can get a resolution to avoid a global disaster. A military option would cause a regional and global disaster which can lead to the death of many people, escalating the conflict between the US and its allies and China. It would also lead to a collapse in the economy of the region which is currently an economic powerhouse in the whole world.


Anderson, N. D. (2017). Explaining North Korea's Nuclear Ambitions: Power and Position on the Korean Peninsula. Australian Journal of International Affairs, 1-21.

Cho, E. J. R. (2017). Nation Branding for Survival in North Korea: The Arirang Festival and Nuclear Weapons Tests. Geopolitics, 1-29.

Hewitt, C. (2017). North Korea Deal?.

Lankov, A. (2017). Why Nothing Can Really Be Done about North Korea's Nuclear Program. Asia Policy, 23(1), 104-110.

Litwak, R. S. (2017). Preventing North Korea's Nuclear Breakout. Washington: Wilson Center, 59.

Toon, O. B., Robock, A., Mills, M., & Xia, L. (2017). Asia Treads the Nuclear Path, Unaware That Self-Assured Destruction Would Result from Nuclear War. The Journal of Asian Studies, 1-20.

November 03, 2022

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