North Korea just conducted its seventh missile test launch so far this year. No one should expect this activity to cease, and no one should be surprised by North Korea’s progressively more advanced weapons capabilities, analysts said at a recent Mitchell Institute forum on Capitol Hill, hosted by the author.
“During Kim Jung Un’s five years in power he has done twice, perhaps three times, as many launches of missiles as his father did in 18 years,” said Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
The North Korean dictator is not showing any signs of slowing down, and he is determined to push forward the country’s program to enhance the medium and long-range missiles and nuclear warheads that now threaten the United States and its allies.
Klingner estimates that North Korea has 16 to 20 nuclear weapons. “And then, of course, the question or the debate is how far along they are,” he said. “I think it is pretty clear they’ve weaponized and miniaturized the warhead, that right now the Nodong medium-range ballistic missile is already nuclear capable.” This means U.S. allies Japan and South Korea are under a nuclear threat today, he stressed. “It is not theoretical, it is not several years in the future as some analysts or experts will tell you.”
The threats posed by North Korea are wide ranging, Klingner noted. “They’ve got, we estimate, 5,000 tons of chemical warfare agents.” And it has a sophisticated army of cyber warriors. “They are, perhaps, in the top five or top three countries in the world for cyber attack capabilities.”
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