North Korea’s Nuclear Capability

North Korea totalitarian country has the highest number of military & paramilitary personnel with a total of 9 495 000 active, reserve and paramilitary personnel. Its active duty army of 1.21million is the fourth largest in the world, after China, the United States and India.

Since the announcement of its nuclear weapons capability about a decade ago, it has conducted several tests with nuclear bombs. The first in 2006 followed by , 2009,  2013 and January and September 2016. The yield of the bombs appears to have increased. But one can explore whether the bombs being tested are atomic or Hydrogen bombs and what the difference between the two is?

Hydrogen bombs commonly called H-bombs use fusion; the merging of atoms to unleash massive amounts of energy, whereas atomic bombs use nuclear fission, which is the splitting of atoms. N. Korea claims that the January 2016 test was of a hydrogen bomb, however experts have cast doubt on the claim, given the size of the explosion registered.

The other question is, is it Uranium or Plutonium? Analysts believe the first two tests used plutonium, but whether the North used plutonium or uranium as the starting material for the 2013 test is unclear. A successful uranium test would mark a significant leap forward in North Korea’s nuclear programme. The North’s plutonium stocks are finite, but if it could enrich uranium it could build up a nuclear stockpile.

Kim Jong-um’s regime has already conducted 11 missile tests this year and uttered threats of its ICBM -Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles capable of reaching United States main land. In its latest test conducted on Tuesday July 4th 2017, the regime said, the long range missile can reach anywhere in the world. The missile test reached a height of 2 802km, according to state broadcaster Korean Central Television, which is the highest altitude a North Korean missile as ever reached, and flew for 37-40 minutes into waters east of the Korean Peninsula and may have landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 nautical miles from its coastline.

North Korea’s Nuclear Capability
Kim Jong-un visiting Berlin | flickr

 

What then can be done? Should more sanctions be imposed on the regime? Should the Trump administration respond with a pre-emptive strike?

Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate at the James Martin Canter for Non-proliferation Studies, said an ICBM test would put the United States in a difficult negotiating position. She expressed that there is room for negotiation but not the type of negotiation the U.S government wants. She added that the U.S is now only able to work towards limiting and not eliminating the North Korean missile threat to the U.S mainland.


Featured image | North Korean soldiers |Roman Harak | flickr

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.

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