North Korea’s Nuclear Expansion
North Korea could be on track to have an arsenal of 100 nuclear weapons by 2020, according to a new research report. The prediction, from experts on North Korea, goes well beyond past estimates and should force renewed attention on a threat that has been eclipsed by other crises.
At the moment, the United States and five other major powers are negotiating an agreement that would constrain the nuclear program in Iran, which does not possess any nuclear weapons. North Korea, on the other hand, is estimated to have already produced 10 to 16 weapons since 2003.
The new assessment comes from Joel Wit, a former American negotiator with North Korea who is now a senior fellow with the U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, and David Albright, head of the Institute for Science and International Security. They conclude that North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs have been growing since 2009 and are now “poised for significant expansion over the next five years.” That poses serious threats for other countries in Asia and for the United States.
Details about the programs are hard to come by given North Korea’s closed system. As a result, the researchers have outlined possible scenarios for the next five years, ranging from 20 nuclear weapons to 100, which would put North Korea on a par with India, Pakistan and Israel.
Independently, China has also estimated the program to be capable of producing the higher range of weapons, another expert on North Korea told The Times.
North Korea already has 1,000 ballistic missiles including the medium-range land-based Nodong missile, which is mobile and accurate enough to attack cities, ports and military bases in Japan and South Korea. The country may also possess limited long-range missiles that can reach targets in the United States, the report said. It has also succeeded in miniaturizing nuclear weapons so they can fit on both medium-range and long-range missiles.
The more missiles and nuclear weapons North Korea produces, the more likely the government will seek to sell them. Just this week, Reuters reported that United Nations experts have found new evidence that a North Korean shipping company has renamed most of its vessels to disguise their origin and continue illicit shipments in violation of United Nations sanctions. Earlier this month, Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a speech in Tokyo, called North Korea “the most significant source of instability in the region” and denounced its “reckless pursuit of a larger and larger nuclear program and the missiles to deliver those weapons around the world.”
But the analysis hasn’t been matched by action. The Obama administration and its partners (China, the North’s major supplier of food and fuel; South Korea; Japan; and Russia) have failed to find a way to address the problem or engage the North in sustained negotiations to curb its nuclear weapon and missile production. They cannot merely keep talking about having talks. Mr. Wit’s and Mr. Albright’s research shows the growing danger if they cannot bring North Korea back to the bargaining table.
A version of this editorial appears in print on February 27, 2015, on page A24 of the New York edition with the headline: North Korea’s Nuclear Expansion. Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe
U.S. ‘Deeply Concerned’ By North Korean Nuclear Advances
By David Brunnstrom
WASHINGTON Tue Feb 24, 2015 11:07pm EST
U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Sung Kim speaks to the media at a news conference in Beijing January 30, 2015. REUTERS-Kim Kyung-Hoon
North Korean leader Kim Jung Un smiles during a photo session with the builders of Construction Bureau 8 in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang February 12, 2015. REUTERS-KCNA
1 of 2. U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Sung Kim speaks to the media at a news conference in Beijing January 30, 2015.
Credit: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon
(Reuters) – The United States is “deeply concerned” about North Korea’s nuclear advances, a senior U.S. official said on Tuesday after a U.S. research institute predicted Pyongyang could possess as many as 100 nuclear weapons within five years.
Sung Kim, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy, told a Washington seminar he could not comment on findings presented earlier by experts at the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, because he had not seen the report and U.S. government assessments were classified.
“(But) obviously we are deeply concerned about the fact that the North Koreans are continuing to advance their nuclear capabilities; we know that they are continuing to work on their nuclear program,” Kim said when asked about the report.
Experts at the U.S.-Korea Institute presented three scenarios for North Korea’s future nuclear stockpile, which they estimated currently amount to 10-16 weapons.
In the first, assuming minimal technological improvements, the stockpile was expected to grow to 20 weapons by 2020. In the second, it could grow to 50 and advances in miniaturization would allow North Korea to mount warheads on a new generation of intermediate- and shorter-range ballistic missiles.
The report’s co-author, Joel Wit, described a “worst-case scenario”, which would see an increase to 100 devices and significant technological advances allowing North Korea to deploy battlefield and tactical weapons if it chose to.
“This is a pretty scary scenario,” Wit said, adding that the more nuclear weapons North Korea had, the more difficult it would be to try to coerce it to rolling back its nuclear program.
“To me it’s a risky business trying to punish a country with so many nuclear weapons.”
The report said North Korea’s existing missile systems were able to reach most of Northeast Asia, particularly its foes South Korea and Japan, and Pyongyang may also in the future be able to deploy a limited number of Taepodong missiles – a militarized version of a space-launch vehicle – that could reach the United States.
Kim said concern over North Korean advances was driving international diplomatic efforts “to find a credible path to negotiation so that we can stop North Korea’s development of their nuclear capabilities.”
He said Washington was “under no illusions” about North Korea’s willingness to denuclearize voluntarily and would “continue to apply pressure both multilaterally and unilaterally” though sanctions to increase the cost of failing to do so.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Ken Wills)
North Korea: Nuclear Weapons Are Not A Monopoly Of The U.S.
Posted: 02/27/2015 4:33 am EST Updated: 02/27/2015 9:59 am EST
KIM JONG UN
SEOUL, Feb 27 (Reuters) – North Korea ramped up its threatening language against the United States on Friday, days before the start of annual joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises that often trigger an angry response from Pyongyang.
North Korea regularly protests the annual exercises, which it calls a rehearsal for war, and has recently stepped up its own air, sea and ground military exercises, amid a period of increased tension between the rival Koreas.
“The DPRK will wage a merciless sacred war against the U.S. now that the latter has chosen confrontation,” the country’s official KCNA news agency said, quoting from an article in the ruling Workers’ Party newspaper, the Rodong Sinmum.
DPRK is short for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the country’s official name.
“Nuclear weapons are not a monopoly of the U.S.,” the article said. “The U.S. is seriously mistaken if it thinks its mainland is safe.”
North Korea frequently makes such threats against the United States and South Korea, which said on Tuesday the two would begin eight weeks of joint military drills from March 2.
On Friday it said the United States was “much upset by the fact that there may be a sign of detente on the Korean peninsula, thanks to the DPRK’s initiative and efforts to achieve peace this year.”
However, overtures for dialog by both Koreas in recent months have stalled, with Pyongyang recently describing inter-Korean relations as “inching close to a catastrophe.”
(Reporting by Tony Munroe; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/27/north-korea-nuclear-weapons_n_6767104.html North Korea Offers Nuclear Talks with Conditions
An Myong Hun, a North Korean official reacts to questions about the cyber-attack on Sony Pictures at United Nations headquarters on Jan. 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Millions of Internet users have paid almost six dollars each to watch an online movie called “The Interview.” The film has deeply angered North Korea. It also has led many Americans to debate what actions to take when facing threats to free expression.
Audio S. Korea Raises Security after Cyberattack on Nuclear Plants
Computer criminals entered computer networks, stole and released sensitive documents; South Korean officials are now trying to show the public that the country’s 23 nuclear power centers are secure. The attack was very similar to what North Korean hackers did in earlier attacks.
North Korea Offers US Officials Nuclear Talks with Conditions
This week, North Korea offered direct talks with the United States. The North Korean offer came days after the U.S. government rejected an earlier offer by the Asian nation. North Korea said it would suspend nuclear testing if the U.S. suspends joint military exercises with South Korea.
North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, An Myong Hun, says the joint military exercises are the cause of rising tensions. He added that many things would have been possible had the offer been accepted.
Last Saturday, the United States called the earlier North Korean offer an ‘implicit threat.’ It said the North’s nuclear tests violate many U.N. Security Council resolutions. An American official said the U.S. government remains open to discussions. But she said such talks must deal with the Korean peninsula’s denuclearization.
Tensions have risen after U.S. officials accused North Korea of launching a cyber-attack against Sony Pictures in November. The cyber-attack led to the release of sensitive documents. It is believed to have cost the film company millions of dollars. North Korea has denied involvement in the attack.
In early January, the Obama Administration announced new measures against North Korean individuals and organizations.
Daniel Glaser is a Treasury Department official. He says the new sanctions will enable the U.S. to financially pressure agencies and officials involved in cyber-terrorism. He says sanctions have even had an effect on the Chinese financial system.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Sung Kim says the U.S. is working more closely with China, North Korea’s main ally in Asia. He said there is growing concern about the North’s continued work on nuclear weapons and its human rights record.
“I think what we have seen in our cooperation with China is that China is working with us more effectively and trying to stifle North Korea’s dangerous activities.”
South Korea has offered to meet with North Korean officials without any pre-conditions. However, the United States continues to demand that North Korea limit its nuclear activities and honor earlier agreements before opening new negotiations.
The U.S. and South Korea often hold joint military exercises. The Korean War ended with a ceasefire in 1953. No treaty officially ending the war was ever signed.
I’m Mario Ritter.
This story was based on reports from VOA’s Victor Beattie and Brian Padden. Mario Ritter wrote the story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
http://jto.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/f-northnukes-a-20150226-870×551.jpgNorth Korea conducts artillery exercises in this undated photo released by the state-run Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang on Saturday. The first conclusions of a 15-month U.S. study have highlighted Pyongyang’s capacity to rapidly expand its nuclear weapons stockpile. | REUTERS