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Pyongyang is on a new round of confrontation with the West

07.07.2022
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https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/north-korea-nuclear-weapons-missile-tests-military-capabilities

The United States and its Asian allies view North Korea as a major security threat. North Korea has one of the largest conventional forces in the world, which, combined with its missile and nuclear tests and aggressive rhetoric, is causing worldwide concern. But the world powers failed to slow down Pyongyang's progress towards nuclear weapons. Despite remaining one of the world's poorest countries, North Korea spends almost a quarter of its gross domestic product (GDP) on military purposes, according to US State Department estimates.

Analysts estimate that North Korea may have material for more than a hundred nuclear weapons. It successfully tests missiles capable of hitting the United States with a nuclear warhead. Pyongyang has the fourth largest army in the world, with over 1.2 million men, and is thought to have the potential to possess chemical and biological weapons. Despite UN Security Council sanctions and past summits involving North Korea, South Korea and the United States on denuclearization, nuclear weapons testing in North Korea continues.

However, negotiations on denuclearization have stalled since February 2019. And while the exact size and power of North Korea's nuclear arsenal is unclear, analysts say Pyongyang has tested nuclear weapons six times and developed ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States as well as Japan and South Korea. The North Korean regime has the know-how to produce nuclear weapons using weapons-grade uranium or plutonium, the primary elements needed to produce the lethal material. US intelligence officials estimated in 2017 that North Korea had enough of the core component of a nuclear weapon to produce sixty warheads, and could increase its capability by twelve additional weapons each year. At this rate, North Korea could have more than 100 nuclear weapons in 2022. Indeed, a 2021 RAND Corporation report predicts that North Korea could have about two hundred nuclear weapons by 2027.

By mid-2022, North Korea had test fired more than 30 missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, breaking the launch record for any year. This may indicate, among other things, that Pyongyang has no expectations from diplomatic negotiations on a compromise with the West. Attempts by the United States and its allies to denuclearize North Korea through sanctions have not been successful, in addition, a UN Security Council resolution that could have imposed new sanctions on Pyongyang was blocked in May 2022 for the first time in 15 years by China and Russia. All this suggests that North Korea will continue to be one of the most implacable political opponents of the United States and its allies, building up its nuclear and missile military potential.

 

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