North Korea and weapons of mass destruction
|Democratic People's Republic of Korea|
|First nuclear weapon test||October 9, 2006|
|Last nuclear test||January 6, 2016|
|Largest yield test||6–40 kt
(Yield is disputed; the North Korean government never announced a number.)
|Total tests||4, possibly 6|
|Current stockpile (usable and not)||15–22 nuclear weapons equivalents? (rough 2015 ISIS estimate)|
|Current strategic arsenal||10–16 nuclear weapons? (rough 2015 estimate)|
|Cumulative strategic arsenal in megatonnage||<0.5 (2011 ISIS estimate)|
|Maximum missile range||4,000 km (BM25 Musudan)|
|NPT party||Yes, but withdrew in 2003|
|Weapons of mass destruction|
North Korea and weapons of mass destruction concerns North Korea (officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea or DPRK), which declared in 2009 that it had developed a nuclear weapon, and possessed a small stockpile of relatively simple nuclear weapons. North Korea may also have a chemical weapon and/or biological weapons capability. Since 2003, North Korea is no longer a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
On October 9, 2006, North Korea announced it had successfully conducted its first nuclear test. An underground nuclear explosion was detected, its yield was estimated as less than a kiloton, and some radioactive output was detected.
On January 6, 2007, the North Korean government further confirmed that it had nuclear weapons.
In April 2009, reports surfaced that North Korea has become a "fully fledged nuclear power", an opinion shared by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. On May 25, 2009, North Korea conducted a second nuclear test, resulting in an explosion estimated to be between 2 and 7 kilotons. The 2009 test, like the 2006 test, is believed to have occurred at Mantapsan, Kilju County, in the north-eastern part of North Korea.
On February 11, 2013, the U.S. Geological Survey detected a magnitude 5.1 seismic disturbance, reported to be a third underground nuclear test. North Korea has officially reported it as a successful nuclear test with a lighter warhead that delivers more force than before, but has not revealed the exact yield. Multiple South Korean sources estimate the yield at 6–9 kilotons, while the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources estimates the yield at 40 kilotons.
On January 6, 2016 in Korea, the United States Geological Survey detected a magnitude 5.1 seismic disturbance, reported to be a fourth underground nuclear test. North Korea claimed that this test involved a hydrogen bomb. This claim has not been verified. Within hours, many nations and organizations had condemned the test. Expert U.S. analysts do not believe that a hydrogen bomb was detonated. Seismic data collected so far suggests a 6-9 kiloton yield and that magnitude is not consistent with the power that would be generated by a hydrogen bomb explosion. "What we're speculating is they tried to do a boosted nuclear device, which is an atomic bomb that has a little bit of hydrogen, an isotope in it called tritium," said Joseph Cirincione, president of the global security firm Ploughshares Fund.
On February 7, 2016, roughly a month after the alleged hydrogen bomb test, North Korea claimed to have put a satellite into orbit around the Earth. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe had warned the North to not launch the rocket, and if it did and the rocket violated Japanese territory, it would be shot down. Nevertheless, North Korea launched the rocket anyway, claiming the satellite was purely intended for peaceful, scientific purposes. Several nations, including the United States, Japan, and South Korea, have criticized the launch, and despite North Korean claims that the rocket was for peaceful purposes, it has been heavily criticized as an attempt to perform an ICBM test under the guise of a peaceful satellite launch. China also criticized the launch, however urged "the relevant parties" to "refrain from taking actions that may further escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula".
Other nations and the U.N. have responded to North Korea's ongoing missile and nuclear development with a variety of sanctions; most recently, on March 2, 2016, the U.N. Security Council voted to impose additional sanctions against North Korea.
- 1 History
- 2 Nuclear weapons
- 3 Biological and chemical weapons
- 4 Delivery systems
- 5 Exports related to ballistic missile technology
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
The nuclear program can be traced back to about 1962, when North Korea committed itself to what it called "all-fortressization", which was the beginning of the hyper-militarized North Korea of today. In 1963 North Korea asked the Soviet Union for help in developing nuclear weapons, but was refused. The Soviet Union agreed to help North Korea develop a peaceful nuclear energy program, including the training of nuclear scientists. Later, China, after its nuclear tests, similarly rejected North Korean requests for help with developing nuclear weapons.
Soviet specialists took part in the construction of the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center and began construction of an IRT-2000 research reactor in 1963, which became operational in 1965 and was upgraded to 8 MW in 1974. In 1979 North Korea indigenously began to build in Yongbyon a second research reactor, an ore processing plant and a fuel rod fabrication plant.
North Korea's nuclear weapons program dates back to the 1980s. Focusing on practical uses of nuclear energy and the completion of a nuclear weapon development system, North Korea began to operate facilities for uranium fabrication and conversion, and conducted high-explosive detonation tests. In 1985 North Korea ratified the NPT, but did not conclude the required safeguards agreement with the IAEA until 1992. In early 1993, while verifying North Korea's initial declaration, the IAEA concluded that there was strong evidence this declaration was incomplete. When North Korea refused the requested special inspection, the IAEA reported its non-compliance to the UN Security Council. In 1993, North Korea announced its withdrawal from the NPT, but suspended that withdrawal before it took effect.
Under the 1994 Agreed Framework, the U.S. government agreed to facilitate the supply of two light water reactors to North Korea in exchange for North Korean disarmament. Such reactors are considered "more proliferation-resistant than North Korea's graphite-moderated reactors", but not "proliferation proof". Implementation of the Agreed Framework floundered, and in 2002 the Agreed Framework fell apart, with each side blaming the other for its failure. By 2002, Pakistan had admitted that North Korea had gained access to Pakistan's nuclear technology in the late 1990s.
Based on evidence from Pakistan, Libya, and multiple confessions from North Korea itself, the United States accused North Korea of non-compliance and halted oil shipments; North Korea later claimed its public confession of guilt had been deliberately misconstrued. By the end of 2002, the Agreed Framework was officially abandoned.
On March 17, 2007, North Korea told delegates at international nuclear talks that it is preparing to shut down its main nuclear facility. The agreement was reached following a series of six-party talks, involving North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia, Japan, and the United States begun in 2003. According to the agreement, a list of its nuclear programs will be submitted and the nuclear facility will be disabled in exchange for fuel aid and normalization talks with the United States and Japan. This was delayed from April due to a dispute with the United States over Banco Delta Asia, but on July 14, International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors confirmed the shutdown of North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear reactor and consequently North Korea began to receive aid. This agreement fell apart in 2009, following a North Korean missile test.
In February 2012, North Korea announced that it would suspend uranium enrichment at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center and not conduct any further tests of nuclear weapons while productive negotiations involving the United States continue. This agreement included a moratorium on long-range missiles tests. Additionally, North Korea agreed to allow IAEA inspectors to monitor operations at Yongbyon. The United States reaffirmed that it had no hostile intent toward the DPRK and was prepared to improve bilateral relationships, and agreed to ship humanitarian food aid to North Korea. The United States called the move "important, if limited", but said it would proceed cautiously and that talks would resume only after North Korea made steps toward fulfilling its promise. However, after North Korea conducted a long-range missile test in April 2012, the United States decided not to proceed with the food aid.
The Korean Central News Agency claims that "The Bush administration's DPRK policy that stemmed from its ignorance of the DPRK resulted in making the DPRK a nuclear weapons state." North Korea had been suspected of maintaining a clandestine nuclear weapons development program since the early 1980s, when it constructed a plutonium-producing Magnox nuclear reactor at Yongbyon. Various diplomatic means had been used by the international community to attempt to limit North Korea's nuclear program to peaceful power generation and to encourage North Korea to participate in international treaties. During the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students held in the DPRK in 1989, South Korean activist and "Flower of Reunification" Lim Su-kyung implied that the DPRK was not seeking nuclear weapons, saying: "The slogan 'Let us build a new world free from nuclear weapons!' will not be materialized by words alone. I'd like you to resolutely struggle against the anti-reunification forces, and give us support and encouragement. I, too, want to live in a country free from nuclear weapons; in my own land, and not infested with foreign forces and foreign army troops."
In May 1992, North Korea's first inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) uncovered discrepancies suggesting that North Korea had reprocessed more plutonium than declared. IAEA requested access to additional information and access to two nuclear waste sites at Yongbyon. North Korea rejected the IAEA request and announced on March 12, 1993, an intention to withdraw from the NPT.
In 1994, North Korea pledged, under the "Agreed Framework" with the United States, to freeze its plutonium programs and dismantle all its nuclear weapons programs in return for several kinds of assistance, including construction of two modern nuclear power plants powered by light-water reactors.
By 2002, the United States believed that North Korea was pursuing both uranium enrichment technology and plutonium reprocessing technologies in defiance of the Agreed Framework. North Korea reportedly told American diplomats in private that they were in possession of nuclear weapons, citing American failures to uphold their own end of the "Agreed Framework" as a motivating force. North Korea later "clarified" that it did not possess weapons yet, but that it had "a right" to possess them, despite the Agreed Framework. In late 2002 and early 2003, North Korea began to take steps to eject International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors while re-routing spent fuel rods for plutonium reprocessing for weapons purposes. As late as the end of 2003, North Korea claimed that it would freeze its nuclear program in exchange for additional American concessions, but a final agreement was not reached. North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003.
On October 9, 2006, North Korea demonstrated its nuclear capabilities with its first underground nuclear test, detonating a plutonium based device and the estimated yield was 0.2–1 kiloton. The test was conducted at P'unggye-yok, and U.S. intelligence officials later announced that analysis of radioactive debris in air samples collected a few days after the test confirmed that the blast had taken place. The United Nations Security Council condemned the test in Resolution 1874.
On January 6, 2007, the North Korean government further confirmed that it had nuclear weapons.
In February 2007, following the six-party talks disarmament process, Pyongyang agreed to shut down its main nuclear reactor. On October 8, 2008, IAEA inspectors were forbidden by the North Korean government to conduct further inspections of the site.
On April 25, 2009, the North Korean government announced that the country's nuclear facilities had been reactivated, and that spent fuel reprocessing for arms-grade plutonium has been restored.
On May 25, 2009, North Korea conducted its second underground nuclear test. The U.S. Geological Survey calculated its origin in proximity of the site of the first nuclear test. The test was more powerful than the previous test, estimated at 2 to 7 kilotons. The same day, a successful short range missile test was also conducted.
On February 12, monitors in Asia picked up unusual seismic activity at a North Korean facility at 11:57am (02:57 GMT), later determined to be an artificial quake. with an initial magnitude 4.9 (later revised to 5.1). The Korean Central News agency subsequently said that the country had detonated a miniaturized nuclear device with "greater explosive force" in an underground test. According to the Korea Institute of Geosciences and Mineral Resources, the estimated yield was 7.7–7.8 kilotons.
In December 2015, Kim Jong-un suggested that the country had the capacity to launch a hydrogen bomb, a device of considerably more power than conventional atomic bombs used in previous tests. The remark was met with skepticism from the White House and South Korean officials.
On January 6, after reports of a magnitude 5.1 earthquake originating in northeast North Korea at 10:00:01 UTC+08:30, the country's regime released statements that it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb. Whether this was in fact a hydrogen bomb has yet to be proven. Experts have cast doubt on this claim. A South Korean spy expert suggested that it may have been an atomic bomb and not a hydrogen bomb. Experts in several countries, including South Korea have expressed doubts about the claimed technology because of the relatively small size of the explosion. Senior Defense Analyst Bruce W. Bennett of research organization RAND told the BBC that "... Kim Jong-un is either lying, saying they did a hydrogen test when they didn't, they just used a little bit more efficient fission weapon – or the hydrogen part of the test really didn't work very well or the fission part didn't work very well."
On 9 March 2016, North Korea released a video of Kim Jong Un visiting a missile factory. The image was met with doubts. IHS Jane's Karl Dewey said that "It is possible that the silver sphere is a simple atomic bomb. But it is not a hydrogen bomb." Furthermore, he said that "a hydrogen bomb would not only be in two parts but also be a different shape".
Nations across the world, as well as NATO and the United Nations, have spoken out against the testing as destabilizing, as a danger to international security and as a breach of UN Security Council resolutions. China, one of North Korea's only allies, also denounced the test.
Fissile material production
- One Soviet-supplied IRT-2000 research reactor, completed in 1967. Uranium irradiated in this reactor was used in North Korea's first plutonium separation experiments in 1975. Nevertheless, the primary purpose of the reactor is not to produce plutonium and North Korea has had trouble acquiring enough fuel for constant operation. The U.S. Department of Energy estimated that this reactor could have been used to produce up to 1–2 kg of plutonium, though the Joint Atomic Energy Intelligence Committee said that the amount was no more than a few hundred grams.
- A newer nuclear reactor with a capacity of 5MWe. This gas-graphite moderated Magnox type reactor is North Korea's main reactor, where practically all of its plutonium has been produced. A full core consists of 8,000 fuel rods and can yield a maximum of 27–29 kg of plutonium if left in the reactor for optimal burnup. The North Korean Plutonium Stock, Mid-2006, it is estimated to be able to produce 0.9 grams of plutonium per thermal megawatt every day of its operations. The material required to make a single bomb is approximately four to eight kilograms. Often, North Korea has unloaded the reactor before reaching the maximum burnup level. There are three known cores which were unloaded in 1994 (under IAEA supervision in accordance with the Agreed Framework), 2005, and 2007.
- In 1989, the 5MWe reactor was shut down for a period of seventy to a hundred days. In this time it is estimated that up to fifteen kilograms of plutonium could have been extracted. In 1994, North Korea unloaded its reactors again. The IAEA had these under full surveillance until later being denied the ability to observe North Korean power plants. Under normal operation, the reactor can produce about 6 kg of plutonium per year although the reactor would need to be shut down and the fuel rods extracted to begin the plutonium separation process. Hence, plutonium separation stages alternate with plutonium production stages. Reprocessing (also known as separation) is known to have taken place in 2003 for the first core and 2005 for the second core.
- Two Magnox reactors (50MWe and 200MWe), under construction at Yongbyon and Taechon. If completed, 50MWe reactor would be capable of producing 60 kg of plutonium per year, enough for approximately 10 weapons and 200MWe reactor 220 kg of plutonium annually, enough for approximately 40 weapons. Construction was halted in 1994 about a year from completion in accord with the Agreed Framework, and by 2004 the structures and pipework had deteriorated badly.
- Fuel reprocessing facility that recovers uranium and plutonium from spent fuel using the PUREX process. Based on extended Eurochemic reprocessing plant design at the Mol-Dessel site in Belgium. In 1994 its activity was frozen in accord with the Agreed Framework. On April 25, 2009, North Korean news agency KCNA, reported the resumption of reprocessing of spent fuel to recover plutonium.
On March 12, 1993, North Korea said that it planned to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and refused to allow IAEA inspectors access to its nuclear sites. By 1994, the United States believed that North Korea had enough reprocessed plutonium to produce about 10 bombs with the amount of plutonium increasing. Faced with diplomatic pressure after UN Security Council Resolution 825 and the threat of American military air strikes against the reactor, North Korea agreed to dismantle its plutonium program as part of the Agreed Framework in which South Korea and the United States would provide North Korea with light water reactors and fuel oil until those reactors could be completed.
Because the light water reactors would require enriched uranium to be imported from outside North Korea, the amount of reactor fuel and waste could be more easily tracked, making it more difficult to divert nuclear waste to be reprocessed into plutonium. However, the Agreed Framework was mired in difficulties, with each side blaming the other for the delays in implementation; as a result, the light water reactors were never finished. In late 2002, after fuel aid was suspended, North Korea returned to using its old reactors.
In 2006, there were eight sites identified as potential test explosion sites for current (and future) tests according to a statement by the South Korean Parliament. These sites are distinguished from a number of other nuclear materials production facilities in that they are thought to be most closely identified with a military, or potentially military purpose:
1. Hamgyong Bukdo (North Hamgyong) Province – 2 Sites:
- Chungjinsi – Nuclear fuel storage site, military base and unidentified underground facility
- Kiljugun – Extensive military buildup with motorized troop formations and construction of new advanced underground facility – Site of May 25, 2009, Nuclear Test.
- Phunggyere – Site of October 9, 2006, Nuclear Test
2. Chagangdo Province – 1 Site: Kanggyesi – Production center of North Korea's advanced equipment and munitions since 1956. Also, extensive intelligence of highly advanced underground facility.
3. Pyongan Bukdo (North Pyongan) Province – 4 Sites:
- Yongbyonsi – 2 Sites – Location of Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center, and the facility's Experimental Test Explosion facility and two unidentified underground facilities. In addition, there is a gas-graphite reactor, HE test site, nuclear fuel fabrication site, nuclear waste storage site
- Kusungsi – Between 1997 and September 2002, approximately 70 test explosions of North Korean munitions took place. Also, existence of underground facility
- Taechongun – 200MWe Nuclear Energy Plant construction site. Location of unidentified underground facility and nuclear arms/energy related facilities known to exist
4. Pyongan Namdo (South Pyongan) Province – 1 Site: Pyongsungsi – Location of National Science Academy and extensive underground facility whose purpose is not known.
Highly enriched uranium program
North Korea possesses uranium mines containing an estimated 4 million tons of high grade uranium ore.
Prime minister Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan allegedly, through Pakistan's former top scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, supplied key data, stored on CDs, on uranium enrichment and information to North Korea in exchange for missile technology around 1990–1996, according to U.S. intelligence officials. President Pervez Musharraf and Prime minister Shaukat Aziz acknowledged in 2005 that Khan had provided centrifuges and their designs to North Korea. In May 2008, Khan, who had previously confessed to supplying the data on his own initiative, retracted his confession, claiming that the Pakistan Government forced him to be a "scapegoat". He also claimed that North Korea's nuclear program was well advanced before his visits to North Korea.
Highly enriched uranium (HEU) program was publicized in October 2002 when the United States asked North Korean officials about the program. Under the Agreed Framework, North Korea explicitly agreed to freeze plutonium programs (specifically, its "graphite moderated reactors and related facilities"). The agreement also committed North Korea to implement the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, in which both Koreas committed not to have enrichment or reprocessing facilities. The United States argued North Korea violated its commitment not to have enrichment facilities.
In December 2002, claiming North Korean non-compliance, the United States persuaded the KEDO Board to suspend fuel oil shipments, which led to the end of the Agreed Framework. North Korea responded by announcing plans to reactivate a dormant nuclear fuel processing program and power plant north of Pyongyang. North Korea soon thereafter expelled United Nations inspectors and announced a unilateral "withdrawal" from the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
In 2007, a Bush administration official assessed that, while there was still a "high confidence" that North Korea acquired materials that could be used in a "production-scale" uranium program, there is only a "mid-confidence" level such a production-scale uranium (rather than merely plutonium) program exists.
Stockpile estimates and projections
Institute for Science and International Security
For 2013, the Institute for Science and International Security gives a mid-range estimate of 12 to 27 "nuclear weapon equivalents", including plutonium and uranium stockpiles. By 2016, North Korea is projected to have 14 to 48 nuclear weapon equivalents. (For uranium weapons, each weapon is assumed to contain 20 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium.)
Biological and chemical weapons
The U.S. Department of Defense believes North Korea probably has a chemical weapons program and is likely to possess a stockpile of weapons. The United States believes that North Korea maintains a biological weapons capability and infrastructure, and has the munitions production capacity to deploy biological agents if it chose to do so.
North Korea reportedly acquired the technology necessary to produce tabun and mustard gas as early as the 1950s. The United States estimates North Korea's likely stockpile of chemical weaponry from at least a few hundred tons, to at most a few thousand tons.
In 2009 the International Crisis Group reported that the consensus expert view was that North Korea had a stockpile of about 2,500 to 5,000 tonnes of chemical weapons, including mustard gas, sarin (GB) and other nerve agents. The South Korean government also estimated the stockpile as about 2,500 to 5,000 tonnes in 2010.
North Korea may have also begun the production of binary agents. Binary agents are toxic only when the two chemicals (normally physically separated) are combined. By creating binary agents, North Korea can increase their safety when handling hazardous material. North Korean military units conduct regular nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) training exercises in a chemical environment. North Korean chemical and biological warfare units are equipped with decontamination and detection equipment. In 2010, the Omaha World-Herald reported that North Korea has chemical weapons which could cause millions of casualties in South Korea, where gas masks are only provided to the military and top government officials.
On June 6, 2015, a North Korean defector to Finland who is working in China claims to have 15 gigabytes of electronic evidence that he claims documents how the country is testing chemical and biological agents on its own citizens. The same day, photo releases of Kim Jong-un visiting the Pyongyang Bio-technical Institute were scrutinised by experts such as Melissa Hanham of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, who claims that this factory is an anthrax-producing factory. However, an official spokesperson for the National Defence Commission denied the allegations on the Korean Central News Agency, challenging the US Congress to inspect the Institute, saying: "Come here right now, with all the 535 members of the House of Representatives and the Senate as well as the imbecile secretaries and deputy secretaries of the government who have made their voices hoarse screaming for new sanctions. Then they can behold the awe-inspiring sight of the Pyongyang Bio-technical Institute."
In the 1960s, DPRK first received shipments of short-range ballistic missiles from its main ally, the Soviet Union. The first weapons of this kind to be delivered were the tactical FROG-series. In the late 1970s or early 1980s, the DPRK received several longer range Scud-B missiles from Egypt (which in turn received those missiles from the USSR, Bulgaria and Poland). The USSR had refused to supply Scuds to North Korea. A local production basis was established, and the first modified copy was named Hwasong-5. With time, more advanced types of missiles were developed. Eventually North Korea equipped itself with ballistic missiles, capable of reaching Japan. In the 1990s, North Korea sold medium-sized nuclear capable missiles to Pakistan in a deal facilitated by China.
North Korea's ability to deliver weapons of mass destruction to a hypothetical target is somewhat limited by its missile technology. As of 2005, North Korea's total range with its Nodong missiles estimated as 900 km with a 1,000 kg payload, enough to reach South Korea, and parts of Japan, Russia and China. It is not known if this missile is capable of carrying the nuclear weapons North Korea may have developed.
The BM25 Musudan is a North Korean designed intermediate-range ballistic missile with range capabilities of up to 1,550 miles (2,490 km), and could carry a nuclear warhead. As of 2010, Western sources had no indication that the missile system had ever been tested, or was operational. North Korea has also developed the Taepodong-1 missile, which has an estimated range of up to 5,000 km.
With the development of the Taepodong-2 missile, with an expected range of 5,000–6,000 km, North Korea could hypothetically deliver a warhead to almost all countries in Southeast Asia, as well as the western side of North America. The Taepodong-2 missile was unsuccessfully tested on July 4, 2006. U.S. intelligence estimates that the weapon will not be operational for another 11 years. The Taepodong-2 could theoretically hit the western United States. A few Taepodong-2 missiles may exist, but launch procedures are lengthy and visible.
In an online interview published in 2006, the Japanese Ministry of Defense's analyst Takesada argued that North Korea's desire of unification is similar to North Vietnam, and warned of the possibility of North Korea's compulsory merger with South Korea by threats of nuclear weapons, taking advantage of any possible decrease in the U.S. military presence in South Korea, after North Korea deploys several hundred mobile ICBMs aimed at the United States.
On April 5, 2009, North Korea launched the Unha-2 space booster (allegedly based on the long-range Taepodong-2). Although the launch was more successful than the 2006 test, the third stage still failed to separate properly. The UN Security Council condemned the launch as a violation of previous Security Council resolutions.
On July 2, 2009, North Korea test fired a series of at least four surface-to-ship cruise missiles into the Sea of Japan (East Sea). Two days later, on July 4, they proceeded to test fire a further seven Scud-type ballistic missiles into the same sea. The tests are seen by world powers as a symbol of defiance to the United Nations set over North Korea after their nuclear test on May 25, 2009. These launches came only a week after U.S. President Barack Obama extended U.S. economic sanctions against North Korea. This is also a response to the UN sanctions that were imposed in June 2009, after Pyongyang's nuclear test in May 2009, as well as the new UN resolution that any nation can inspect a North Korean vessel that the investigating nation believes is carrying weaponry. It was speculated that the test firing of missiles was an act of defiance against the United States national holiday, Independence Day.
Operational delivery systems
There is evidence that North Korea has been able to miniaturize a nuclear warhead for use on a ballistic missile. Re-entry technology to protect the warheads en route to their targets is lacking. An April 2012 display of missiles purporting to be ICBMs were declared fakes by Western analysts, and indicated North Korea was a long way from having a credible ICBM. In December 2012, North Korea placed a (possibly non-functional) satellite into orbit for the first time. Various North Korean rocket tests continued into the 2010s, for example in 2013, in 2014, and in an allegedly successful satellite launch in 2016. North Korea performed no tests of medium-range missiles sufficiently powerful to reach Japan in 2015, but South Korea's Yonhap news agency believes that at least one missile fired during North Korea's March 2016 missile tests is likely a medium-range Rodong missile. North Korea appeared to launch a missile test from a submarine on 23 April 2016; while the missile only traveled 30 km, one U.S. analyst noted that "North Korea's sub launch capability has gone from a joke to something very serious". An August 2016 North Korean missile test of a Rodong missile that flew 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) landed about 250 kilometres (160 mi) west of Japan's Oga Peninsula, in international waters but inside Japan's exclusive economic zone, prompting Japan to condemn the "unforgivable act of violence toward Japan's security".
As of 2016, North Korea is known to have approximately 300 Rodong missiles whose maximum range is 800 miles.
Operational / successfully tested
- KN-1 – a short-range anti-ship cruise missile. Its range is estimated to be around 160 kilometers, and is most probably an improved version of the Soviet Termit missile (NATO codename "Styx").
- KN-2 Toksa – a short-range, solid-fueled, highly accurate mobile missile, modified copy of the Soviet OTR-21. Unknown number in service, apparently deployed either in the late 1990s or early 2000s (decade).
- Hwasong-5 – initial Scud modification. Road-mobile, liquid-fueled missile, with an estimated range of 330 km. It has been tested successfully. It is believed that North Korea has deployed some 150–200 such missiles on mobile launchers.
- Hwasong-6 – later Scud modification. Similar to the Hwasong-5, yet with an increased range (550–700 km) and a smaller warhead (600–750 kg). Apparently this is the most widely deployed North Korean missile, with at least 400 missiles in use.
- Rodong-1 – larger and more advanced Scud modification. Liquid-fueled, road-mobile missile with a 650 kg warhead. First production variants had inertial guidance, later variants featured GPS guidance, which improves CEP accuracy to 190–250 m. Range is estimated to be between 1,300 and 1,600 km.
- Musudan – believed to be a modified copy of the Soviet R-27 Zyb SLBM. Originally believed to have been tested as the first or second stage of Unha, but debris analysis showed that the Unha used older technology than it is believed the Musudan uses. Also known under the names Nodong-B, Taepodong-X, Hwasong-10 (HS-10) and BM25, predicted to have a range of 2,500–4,000 km assuming R-27 technology is used. A DoD report puts BM25 strength at fewer than 50 launchers.
Untested / failed
- KN-08 – Road-mobile ICBM. Also called the Hwasong-13 (HS-13). Maximum range >3,400 miles. The US Defense Department estimates at least 6 KN-08 launchers are in deployment. A modified version, the KN-14, was unveiled at a parade marking the 70th anniversary of the Workers Party of Korea.
- Taepodong-1 – three-stage technology demonstrator. First stage was adapted from a Rodong-1. Second stage was adapted from a Hwasong-6. A satellite launch was attempted in 1998. The satellite failed to reach orbit, but the first two stages apparently functioned adequately. The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency concluded that the Taepodong-1 was a test-bed for a series of long-range ballistic missiles and SLVs. The US National Air and Space Intelligence Center made a similar assessment.
- Taepodong-2 – Three-stage technology demonstrator. First test occurred in 2006, when the missile failed 40 seconds after launch. Estimates of the range vary widely – from 4,500 to 10,000 kilometers (most estimates put the range at about 6,700 km).
In April 2009, the United Nations named the Korea Mining and Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) as North Korea's primary arms dealer and main exporter of equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons. The UN lists KOMID as being based in the Central District, Pyongyang. However, it also has offices in Beijing and sales offices worldwide which facilitate weapons sales and seek new customers for North Korean weapons.
KOMID has sold missile technology to Iran and has done deals for missile related technology with the Taiwanese. KOMID representatives were also involved in a North Korean deal to mass-produce Kornet anti-tank guided missiles for Syria and KOMID has also been responsible for the sale of equipment, including missile technologies, gunboats, and multiple rocket artilleries, worth a total of over $100 million, to Africa, South America, and the Middle East.
North Korea's military has also used a company called Hap Heng to sell weapons overseas. Hap Heng was based in Macau in the 1990s to handle sales of weapons and missile and nuclear technology to nations such as Pakistan and Iran. Pakistan's medium-range ballistic missile, the Ghauri, is considered to be a copy of North Korea's Rodong 1. In 1999, intelligence sources claim that North Korea had sold missile components to Iran. Listed directors of Hap Heng include Kim Song in and Ko Myong Hun. Ko Myong Hun is now a listed diplomat in Beijing and may be involved in the work of KOMID.
A UN sanctions committee report stated that North Korea operates an international smuggling network for nuclear and ballistic missile technology, including to Myanmar (Burma), Syria, and Iran.
Many countries have bought North Korean ballistic missiles or have received assistance from North Korea to establish local missile production.
- North Korean entities continued to provide assistance to Pakistan's ballistic missile program during the first half of 1999 in return for nuclear weapons technology. Such assistance was critical to Islamabad's efforts to produce ballistic missiles. In April 1998, Pakistan flight-tested the Ghauri MRBM, which is based on North Korea's Nodong missile. Also in April 1998, the United States imposed sanctions against Pakistani and North Korean entities for their role in transferring Missile Technology Control Regime Category I ballistic missile-related technology.
- Egypt has received technologies and assistance for manufacture of both the Hwasong-5 and Hwasong-6, and may have provided guidance systems or information on longer-range missiles to North Korea from the Condor/Badr program.
- Iran was one of the first countries to buy North Korean missiles. Iran has established local production for the Hwasong-5 (Shahab-1), Hwasong-6 (Shahab-2) and the Rodong-1 (Shahab-3). Iran also possesses some 19 land-based BM25 Musudan missiles, according to a leaked, classified U.S. State Department cable, however Iran has never displayed these missiles causing some U.S. intelligence officials to doubt the missiles were transferred to Iran.
- Syria originally obtained the SCUD-B from North Korea. North Korea may have assisted Syria in development of the SCUD-C and/or the SCUD-D. As of 2013, Syria relies on foreign assistance from multiple countries, including North Korea, for advanced missile components and technologies.
- United Arab Emirates
- 25 Hwasong-5s were purchased from North Korea in 1989. The Military of the United Arab Emirates were not satisfied with the quality of the missiles, and they were kept in storage.
- Acquired Hwasong-5/6 missiles in 1998.
- Known to have bought Hwasong-5 missiles from the DPRK in the 1990s—a total of 15 missiles, 15 TELs with 15 HE warheads.
Former export partners
- Libya during the reign of Muammar Gaddafi had been known to receive technological assistance, blueprints and missile parts from North Korea.
Rejection by a potential export partner
- In January 2004, the Nigerian government announced that North Korea had agreed to sell it missile technology, but a month later Nigeria rejected the agreement under U.S. pressure.
- Korean conflict
- North Korea–Pakistan relations
- Nuclear power in North Korea
- Foreign relations of North Korea
- North Korea–United States relations
- Index of Korea-related articles
- Sohae Satellite Launching Station
- 2002 State of the Union Address
- List of North Korean nuclear tests
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- Kessler, Glenn (March 1, 2007). "New Doubts on Nuclear Efforts by North Korea". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 1, 2007.
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IHS Jane's puts the estimated range at anywhere between 2,500 and 4,000 kilometres … potential payload size has been put at 1.0-1.25 tonnes.
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- Second nuclear test conducted by North Korea on May 25, 2009
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- Annotated bibliography for the North Korean nuclear weapons program from the Alsos Digital Library
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- North Korean International Documentation Project Contains primary source documents related to the DPRK's efforts to obtain nuclear technology dating back to the mid-1960s
- TIME Archives A Collection of stories regarding North Korea's Nuclear Program
- Chung Min Lee, "The Evolution of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis: Implications for Iran", Proliferation Papers, Paris, IFRI, Winter 2009
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- North Korea: Economic Sanctions
- Chronology of U.S. – North Korean Nuclear and Missile Diplomacy
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- IISS North Korea's Ballistic Missile Programme
- List of all sanctions against North Korea