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North Korea’s Military Capabilities

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작성자 nicolson 작성일22-07-17 22:24 조회871회 댓글0건



The United States and its Asian allies see North Korea as a grave security threat. North Korea has one of the world's largest conventional military forces, which, combined with its missile and nuclear tests and aggressive rhetoric, has aroused concern worldwide. But world powers have been ineffective in slowing its path to acquire nuclear weapons.

While it remains among the poorest countries in the world, North Korea spends nearly a quarter of its gross domestic product (GDP) on its military, according to US State Department estimates. Its brinkmanship will continue to test regional and international partnerships aimed at preserving stability and security. Negotiations on denuclearization have remained stalled since February 2019.

What are North Korea's nuclear capabilities?

The exact size and strength of North Korea's nuclear arsenal are unclear. However, analysts say Pyongyang has tested nuclear weapons six times and developed ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States and its allies Japan and South Korea.

The North Korean regime possesses the know-how to produce nuclear bombs with weapons-grade uranium or plutonium, the primary elements required for making fissile material. US intelligence officials estimated in 2017 that North Korea had enough fissile material—the core component of nuclear weapons—for up to sixty weapons, and that every year it produces enough fissile material for twelve additional weapons. At that rate, in 2022, North Korea could have enough fissile material for more than one hundred nuclear weapons. Indeed, a 2021 RAND Corporation report projected that North Korea could have around two hundred nuclear weapons stockpiled by 2027. Some experts believe the current stockpile of fissile material to be smaller; the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' Hans M.

North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests, first in October 2006 and then in May 2009 under former Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il. Under Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-il's son who assumed power in late 2011, the nuclear program markedly accelerated. Kim has directed four nuclear tests—in February 2013, January and September 2016, and September 2017—and 160 missile tests, far exceeding the number of trials conducted under his father and grandfather, North Korea's founder, Kim Il-sung.

With each test, North Korea's nuclear explosions have grown in power. The first explosion in 2006 was a plutonium-fueled atomic bomb with a yield equivalent to two kilotons of TNT, an energy unit used to measure the power of an explosive blast. The 2009 test had a yield of eight kilotons; the 2013 and January 2016 tests both had yields of approximately seventeen kilotons; and the September 2016 test had a yield of thirty-five kilotons, according to data from the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a Washington, DC-based nonpartisan think tank. (For comparison, the US bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, the first atom bomb, had an estimated yield of sixteen kilotons.)

The nuclear test carried out on September 3, 2017, was significantly larger, experts say, and indicated that the country has developed much more powerful bomb-making technology. Estimates from seismic activity led observers to conclude that the explosion likely exceeded two hundred kilotons. An explosion of such a size gives credence to North Korea's claims of having developed a hydrogen bomb.

North Korea has not conducted a nuclear test since then. In 2018, North Korea said it shut down its main nuclear-material production site, the Yongbyon reactor complex, following the country's summits that year with the United States and South Korea. But in August 2021, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that North Korea had again started producing fissile material at Yongbyon. By mid-2022, satellite imagery showed that construction had advanced, and the IAEA expressed concern that North Korea was preparing for a seventh nuclear test.

Some experts caution that it is only a matter of time before North Korea completes its nuclear force. “We're going to have to learn to live with North Korea's ability to target the United States with nuclear weapons,” said Jeffrey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute of Strategic Studies.

What missiles has North Korea tested?

North Korea has tested more than one hundred ballistic missiles with the ability to carry nuclear warheads, including short-, medium-, intermediate-, and intercontinental-range missiles and submarine-launched ones.

The regime successfully tested intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), each capable of carrying a large nuclear warhead, in July and November 2017. Pyongyang said that in its November test of the Hwasong-15 ICBM, the missile hit an altitude of 4,475 kilometers (2,780 kilometers) miles), far above the International Space Station, and flew about 1,000 kilometers (590 miles) before landing in the sea off Japan's coast. Analysts estimate the Hwasong-15 has a potential range of 13,000 kilometers (8,100 miles) and, if fired on a flatter trajectory, could reach anywhere on the US mainland. American analysts and experts from other countries still debate the nuclear payload that North Korea's ICBMs could carry, and it is still unclear whether the ICBMs have the capability to survive reentry. 

Kim halted missile testing in late 2017 amid a thawing of relations with the United States and South Korea. But North Korea resumed testing in mid-2019, months after negotiations between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam, broke down. Later that year, Pyongyang conducted an underwater launch of a ballistic missile, its first such test in three years.

Since then, North Korea has unveiled several new ballistic missiles. The first, shown during an October 2020 military parade, was an ICBM larger than the Hwasong-15. It has not been named or tested, but analysts say it could potentially carry multiple nuclear warheads or decoys to confuse missile defense systems. A new Pukkuksong-4 submarine-launched ballistic missile was also displayed in October 2020, and its successor, Pukkuksong-5, was unveiled in January 2021. Experts estimate the Pukkuksong-5 has a range of around 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles), which would allow it to strike Guam. In March 2022, North Korea test-fired an ICBM for the first time since 2017, breaking its self-imposed moratorium on testing long-range missiles. North Korea claimed this missile was the Hwasong-17, which is the country's biggest ICBM yet and has an estimated range of 15,000 kilometers (9,321 miles). However, the South Korean military said the missile tested was much smaller.

Pyongyang has also tested short-range ballistic missiles that are solid fueled, advancing a technology that makes missiles easier to transport and faster to launch. In addition, it tested a more maneuverable long-range cruise missile, which can frustrate missile defense systems if launched in tandem with ballistic missiles. In September, North Korea for the first time test-fired missiles from a railcar launcher, which makes them less detectable by the United States and its allies.

By mid-2022, North Korea had test-launched over thirty missiles since the start of the year, breaking its record for launches in any given year. CFR's Scott A. Snyder says that North Korea's ramped-up testing indicates that it has “no expectations for reengaging diplomatically with the United States.”

There remain significant unknowns surrounding the accuracy of North Korea's ballistic missiles. Observers have said that these missiles are usually inaccurate because of their reliance on early guidance systems acquired from the Soviet Union. However, some defectors and experts say North Korea has begun using GPS guidance, similar to that of China's navigation system, raising questions about the provenance of the system and whether North Korea's arsenal of missiles is more accurate and reliable than previously believed.

Have other countries aided North Korea's nuclear program?

The program is predominantly indigenous but has received external assistance over the years. Moscow, for instance, assisted Pyongyang's nuclear development from the late 1950s to the 1980s: it helped build a nuclear research reactor and provided missile designs, light-water reactors, and some nuclear fuel. In the 1970s, China and North Korea cooperated on defense, including on the development and production of ballistic missiles [PDF]. North Korean scientists also benefited from academic exchanges with Soviet and Chinese counterparts. Though the exchanges may not have been explicitly tied to weapons development, the information learned from research sharing and visits to nuclear facilities could have been applied to a militarized nuclear program, according to Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., an analyst of North Korean defense and intelligence affairs.

Pakistan also emerged as an important military collaborator with North Korea in the 1970s. Bilateral nuclear assistance began when scientists from the two countries were both in Iran working on ballistic missiles during the Iran-Iraq War (1980–1988). In the 1990s, North Korea acquired access to Pakistani centrifuge technology and designs from scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, who had directed the militarization of Pakistan's nuclear program. Pyongyang also received designs for a uranium warhead that Pakistan had likely obtained from China. In exchange, Pakistan received North Korean missile technology. It remains unclear whether Khan acted directly or indirectly on the behalf of the Pakistani government. (Khan's multinational network also illicitly sold nuclear technology and material to buyers, including Iran and Libya.

Third parties have also facilitated Pyongyang's program through the illicit shipment of metal components needed for centrifuge construction and nuclear weaponization. North Korea has developed covert networks for the procurement of technology, materials, and designs to boost its conventional and nuclear weapons programs since the 1960s. These networks, once primarily in Europe, have shifted to Asia and Africa, and goods are often traded multiple times before reaching North Korean hands, says Bermudez.

What punitive steps has North Korea faced?

North Korea's withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2003 and its missile tests and first nuclear test in 2006 prompted the UN Security Council to unanimously adopt resolutions that condemned North Korea's actions and imposed sanctions against the country. The Security Council has steadily ratcheted up sanctions through subsequent resolutions in the hopes of changing Pyongyang's behavior. These additional measures ban arms sales to North Korea, as well as any financial assistance and the sale of materials and technology that could be used for ballistic missiles or nuclear weapons. The measures also impose restrictions on select luxury goods and other foreign trade, as well as inspections of cargo bound for North Korea. While current sanctions have curtailed North Korea's access to materials, it is difficult to regulate all international cargo deliveries. Further hurdles emerged as China and Russia vetoed a May 2022 Security Council resolution that proposed tighter sanctions, the first veto in favor of North Korea in fifteen years. The countries said that previous sanctions had done little to influence North Korea's behavior and accused the United States of further provoking North Korea with its proposal.

Separately, North Korea has a record of missile sales and nuclear technology sharing with countries including Egypt, Iran, Libya, Myanmar, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, and Yemen. It has secretly transferred “nuclear-related and ballistic-missile-related equipment, know-how, and technology,” the United Nations has reported. Given North Korea's economic constraints, fears abound that North Korea could resort to selling more nuclear material and knowledge, thereby enhancing the potential for nuclear terrorism.

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