The United States is “deeply concerned” about North Korea’s growing nuclear stockpile. Sung Kim, the US Special Representative for North Korea Policy, said that the North Koreans continue to advance their nuclear capabilities. Kim’s statement comes after experts at the U.S.-Korea Institute at John Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies predicted that the North could have as many as 100 nuclear weapons by 2020.
Experts draw three possible future scenarios
Nuclear weapons technology experts said that there could be disagreements over North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. But there was no doubt that Pyongyang’s nuclear program poses a serious international threat. Experts estimate that Pyongyang currently as 10-16 nuclear weapons, fashioned from either weapons-grade uranium or plutonium. Joel Wit, a senior fellow at the U.S.-Korea Institute, said some of the findings were “very disturbing.”
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Using satellite data, North Korean media reports and their knowledge of nuclear programs, Joel Wit and David Albright drew three possible future scenarios. Their conclusions were based on the progress North Korea made between 2009 and 2014. In the first scenario, the North would double its nuclear stockpile to 20 weapons.
The second is the most likely scenario, where North Korea manages to produce 50 weapons in the next five years. That may include plutonium-based miniaturized weapons that could easily be mounted on its ballistic missiles. In the worst case scenario, the North Korean stockpile would skyrocket to 100 weapons by 2020. The country will make significant advances in nuclear weapon designs to enable it to deploy tactical and battlefield weapons.
North Korea may launch nuclear attacks
North Korea tested its nuclear weapons in 2006, 2009 and 2013. It frequently launches missile tests, drawing ire from the international community. Earlier this week, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un asked his army to be fully prepared for war. In the latest Gallup poll, Pyongyang was rated the most unfavorable country by Americans.
Daniel Pinkston, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, said that North Korea may launch nuclear attacks on the U.S. or its allies, given its past provocative and authoritarian behavior. The country may not yet have the capabilities to strike the United States, but it can easily target Japan, South Korea and a few others.