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09 August 2017

What nuclear weapons does North Korea have, who would Kim Jong-un target in a missile attack and what are the sanctions against the state?

NORTH Korea, under its unpredictable and tyrannical ruler Kim Jong-un, have repeatedly warned of launching a nuclear strike against its enemies.

The rogue state has accelerated its rate of production and investment in its nuclear weapons programme and is working on technology to attach a nuclear warhead to an ICBM. Here’s a look at North Korea’s nuclear capabilities…

Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has reportedly ordered his missiles be ready within 12 months from December 2016[/caption]

What nuclear weapons does North Korea have?

In the summer of 2017 North Korea successfully launched the country’s first inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) – which has the capability of reaching US territory.

The Pentagon, the headquarters of the US military, has estimated North Korea has approximately 200 launchers which can be used to fire short and medium-range missiles.

Revised estimates mean that the total of missiles could now be between 13 and 21, and the country is also believed to have four warheads.

Each of the weapons are believed to have half the explosive power of those deployed by the US against Japan in WWII.

Recent new satellite images of Jong-un’s main missile test site reveal North Korea’s weapons are more powerful than first thought.

Careful analysis of North Korean tests sites, using images from Planet, reveal the regime has gradually been building up the size of its missiles.

According to the Congressional Research Service, as quoted by ABC, it is widely believed North Korea has between 30 and 40 kilograms of separated plutonium.

Planet/ Quartz

Satellite images show activity at the nuke site[/caption]

When does Kim Jong-un plan to have his weapons ready?

Thae Yong-ho, who has defected to South Korea, made the chilling revelation during a press conference in December that Kim Jong-un plans to be armed within the next 12 months.

The ex-diplomat to London said at the end of 2016: “As long as Kim Jong-un is in power, North Korea will never give up its nuclear weapons.

“The North will not give them up even if the country is offered $1trillion or $10trillion in return.”

Satellite images suggest that North Korea has secretly built artificial islands to use as military bases in the event of nuclear war.

The critical stage for North Korea is being able to miniaturise nuclear warheads to be small enough to be placed onto a ICBM which can reach the US. The technology is also used to miniaturise warheads capable of being carried on nuclear submarines, such as Britain’s Trident submarines.

North Korea paraded nukes through the street at parades marking 105 years since the state’s founder Kim Il-sung was born
AP:Associated Press

North Korea paraded nukes through the street at parades marking 105 years since the state’s founder Kim Il-sung was born[/caption]

Why have tensions between North Korea and the US escalated?

  • April 9: A US strike force was sent towards the western Pacific Ocean near the Korean peninsula
  • April: President Trump ramped up the pressure on China to take action against the secretive state by declaring the US would “solve the problem” alone if it did not step up.
  • April 14: During parades marking 105 years since the state’s founder Kim Il-sung was born, a devastating arsenal was on show including a KN-08 rocket, thought to be capable of flying more than 7,000 miles – within range of Los Angeles, New York and Washington DC. But experts have since questioned if the weapons were genuine.
  • Hours before the parade a top general had told North Korean state TV “we’re prepared to respond to an all-out war with an all-out war”.
  • April 15: North Korea again enraged the US by launching a missile test but this time it was an embarrassing flop exploding almost immediately.
  • April 17: US Vice President Mike Pence told Pyongyang the “era of patience is over” as he warned tubby tyrant Kim Jong-un not to test Trump as plans were made to send a missile defence system to South Korea earlier than planned.
  • April 17: It was reported China and Russia reportedly retaliated to the US’ naval presence in the area by sending spy ships to chase a task force out of the Korean peninsula.
  • April 19: Vice President Mike Pence warned Kim Jong-un the US would “defeat any attack” as he spoke to soldiers aboard a massive aircraft carrier.
  • April 28: North Korea launched a devastating attack on the US Capitol to spark World War Three in a terrifying propaganda film released on April 28
  • Kim Jong-un warned that it would be a “piece of cake” to nuke Japan at the start of May 2017- warning that those who tried to retaliate and their supports would not be safe
  • May: The hermit state said that it has the right to “ruthlessly punish” any US citizens after it detained a fourth American at the start of May
  • May 5: Pyongyang also announced it would seek the extradition of anyone involved in what it says was a CIA-backed plot to kill leader Kim Jung Un with a biochemical poison
  • June: North Korea threatened to nuke Trump’s home town of New York after he mocked the missile programme.
  • July: North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile which analysts say has an imputed range of 6,700 kilometres and brings Alaska within reach. Pyongyang later said it was a “landmark” test of a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile.  Trump responded with an tweet saying; “Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?”.
  • July 31: It was reported that Donald Trump was ready to order a military strike against a North Korean nuclear weapons facility hidden beneath a mountain range.
 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is greeted by U.S. President Donald Trump - with South Korea saying the north's ballistic tests could have been designed to get the US leaders' attention
Japanese PM Shinzo Abe is greeted by President Trump. The pair are key allies in the fight against North Korea’s nuke program
Reuters

Where could North Korea target with a missile attack?

According to reports, North Korea’s Musudan missiles – with a range of 3,500 miles – would be able to strike the US air and naval bases in Guam, and any location in South Korea and Japan, both critical regional allies of the US, as well as swathes of South East Asia.

The US has announced it will deploy its state-of-the-art THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missile system in South Korea in eight to 10 months.

The country has declared it could hit the US, and made the threat again after Trump mocked the missile programme.

The July 2017 successful ICBM test launch marked a significant step forward for secretive Pyongyang’s weapons capability.

ICBMs have a minimum range of about 3,418 miles, but some are designed to travel 6,214 miles or further.

California is roughly 5,592 miles from North Korea. Any ICBM would almost certainly be able to reach Hawaii and Alaska.

What sanctions are in place against the rogue state?

The UN has just approved a new raft of sanctions against the hermit kingdom which could slash their export revenue by a third.

US President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed to apply maximum pressure and sanctions on North Korea in a telephone call on Monday.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Saturday aimed at pressuring Pyongyang to end its nuclear programme.

The U.S.-drafted resolution bans North Korean exports of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood following Pyongyang’s two intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July.

It also prohibits countries from increasing the current numbers of North Korean labourers working abroad, bans new joint ventures with North Korea and any new investment in current joint ventures.

North Korea denounced the sanctions, saying they infringed on its sovereignty and vowed to take “righteous action”, according to the North’s official news agency.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the support of China and Russia for the latest sanctions sent a strong message to North Korea about what was expected of it.

Tillerson said: “When the conditions are right then we can sit and have a dialogue around the future of North Korea so they feel secure and prosper economically.

“The best signal that North Korea can give us that they are prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches.”

Will there be a war?

Any armed conflict between the US and North Korea would destabilise the Far East, with China, Russia, South Korea and Japan all likely to become major players in any conflict.

On August 8th President Trump launched supersonic B-1B bombers from Guam airbase and warned “America WILL be defended” as North Korea threatened to attack the US naval outpost.

Two US Air Force B-1B fighter jets took off from the US base alongside bombers from Japan and South Korea.

The military drills came before the secretive state announced it is “carefully examining” a plan to target the West Pacific outpost.

Kim’s kingdom had made the terrifying revelation just hours after US President Donald Trump vowed to meet any threats against America  with “fire and fury the likes of which the world has never seen”.

As the war of words escalated, the US warned that it was “ready to fight Kim tonight”.

A spokesman for the North Korean army, in a statement carried by the North’s state-run KCNA news agency, said it was “now carefully examining the operational plan for making an enveloping fire at the areas around Guam with the medium-to-long-range Hwasong-12 strategic ballistic rocket”.

Writing in April, Jim Walsh, an expert in international security and a Senior Research Associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Security Studies Program, said war unlikely to break out as no one wants it.

He told Al Jazeera: “North Korea doesn’t want a war, because it knows it will lose and lose decisively. That would mean the end of the Kim dynasty, and if there’s one thing Chairman Kim Jong-un wants, it’s to stay in power.”

He added that China and South Korea don’t want a war involving a country on their borders and the influx of North Korean refugees that would come with it – and a large-scale war would be devastating for the already-poor reputation President Trump already has.

But Dr Walsh also warned that bluster, poor communication and military manoeuvres could lead to an “accidental war”.

Kim could also use his nuclear arsenal if he suspected the West was launching a “decapitation strike” to devastate Pyongyang’s military strength, Dr Walsh added.

Smirking Kim Jong-un looks on at North Korea huge artillery barrage


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