From the Overview: "North Korea is making rapid advancements in its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. Since Kim Jong-un came to power in 2012, North Korea has conducted over 80 ballistic missile test launches. In 2016, North Korea conducted two nuclear weapons tests and 26 ballistic missile flight tests on a variety of platforms. To date in 2017 North Korea has test launched 18 ballistic missiles (with five failures), including two launches in July that many ascribe as ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles). It then conducted a nuclear test on September 3. These tests and official North Korean statements suggest that North Korea is striving to build a credible regional nuclear warfighting capability that might evade regional ballistic missile defenses. Such an approach likely reinforces their deterrent and coercive diplomacy strategy--lending more credibility as it demonstrates capability--but it also raises serious questions about crisis stability and escalation control. Congress may further examine these advances' possible effects on U.S. policy."
CRS In Focus, IF10472
Congressional Research Service: https://crsreports.congress.gov/