"Over the past two decades, North Korea's nuclear program has grown from a proliferation problem to a military threat to its neighbors and the United States. The country is now estimated to possess enough fissile material to build anywhere from six to about thirty nuclear weapons, depending largely on how much highly enriched uranium it has produced, and is poised to grow its stockpile, perhaps dramatically, over the coming years. North Korea has conducted three increasingly powerful nuclear tests since 2006 as well as a series of missile launches, suggesting to some that it could sooner or later target the US homeland. If that were not enough, the North has made excessively bold and even preemptive nuclear threats under the leadership of Kim Jong Un. While North Korea's nuclear capabilities and threats have grown, little attention has been paid to its emerging nuclear strategy for three reasons. First, there is a common caricature of North Korea as backward, unserious and incompetent that has led some to dismiss and downplay its nuclear efforts over the years. Only after its third nuclear test, in 2013, have many analysts begun to take North Korea's nuclear capabilities seriously. Second, there is a tendency for nuclear scholars to bypass North Korea because, as one suggests, 'almost nothing is known about North Korea's nuclear arsenal or the doctrine by which those weapons might be employed.' North Korea and its nuclear program are far from transparent, but this is not a unique problem. US scholars struggled for two generations to understand nuclear thinking in the Soviet Union based on sketchy evidence. It would be a mistake now, just as it would have been then, to throw our hands into the air. Moreover, a surprising amount of evidence about North Korea's nuclear program actually exists from its past nuclear and missile tests, policy pronouncements and military parades as well as from commercially available satellite imagery." Note: This document has been added to the Homeland Security Digital Library in agreement with the Project on Advanced Systems and Concepts for Countering WMD (PASCC) as part of the PASCC collection. Permission to download and/or retrieve this resource has been obtained through PASCC.
2015 US-Korea Institute at SAIS. Downloaded or retrieved via external web link as part of the PASCC collection