EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: In parallel with its growing offensive nuclear capabilities, North Korea possesses fully operational, extensive arsenals of chemical and biological weapons. Pyongyang’s possession of these weapons, which are intact and ready for use, has serious implications, some of which pertain to Iran and Syria.
The US Defense Intelligence Agency recently estimated that North Korea might possess up to 60 nuclear warheads. There are different estimates as to the segmentation of this inventory in relation to various delivery systems, but it is clear that Pyongyang’s objective is to establish the capacity to bring the entire US within range of its ballistic-nuclear ordnance. South Korea and Japan are almost certainly completely covered.
Pyongyang has already achieved partial coverage of US territories. Last June, in a hearing before the US House Armed Services Committee, the head of the US Missile Defense Agency, Vice Admiral James Syring, said: “The advancement and demonstration of technology of ballistic missiles from North Korea in the last six months have caused great concern to me and others. It is incumbent on us to assume that North Korea today can range the US with an ICBM carrying a nuclear warhead.”
This particular endeavor was likely assisted by Tehran. A February 2016 report by the Congressional Research Service concluded, “Iran has likely exceeded North Korea’s ability to develop, test, and build ballistic missiles.” Tehran might be, and probably is, helpful to Pyongyang with respect to technological aspects of the nuclear sphere as well.
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