Can North Korea destroy the U.S., will it
Seoul, South Korea –
North Korea’s recent missile launches are a demonstration of its professed ability to use nuclear forces against South Korea and the US mainland. How imminent is the threat?
North Korea claims its nuclear arsenal can destroy rivals and often details launches after provocative weapons tests. However, many foreign experts have called North Korea’s claims propaganda, suggesting that North Korea does not yet have the capability to strike the United States or its allies with nuclear weapons.
There is no doubt that North Korea has nuclear bombs and missiles that bring the US mainland, South Korea and Japan within range. What’s still unclear is whether or not this nation has mastered the tricky engineering required to participate in bombs and missiles.
North Korea has demonstrated that it possesses a missile capable of reaching deep within the mainland United States, but it is not clear if it would be able to survive a re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere upon arrival.
North Korea said it launched a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile on Saturday to confirm the reliability of its weapons and the combat readiness of the country’s nuclear force. It is one of three types of intercontinental ballistic missiles developed by South Korea, along with Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-17. All three are liquid-fueled, and North Korea describes them all as nuclear-capable.
North Korea’s state media said the weapon was launched almost straight up to avoid neighboring territory, reached a maximum altitude of about 5,770 kilometers (3,585 miles) and flew 990 kilometers (615 miles). Reported flight details suggest that the missile could travel more than 13,000 kilometers (8,080 miles) of her if launched on a normal trajectory.
“Recently, North Korea has been releasing information about its launches in great detail to convince people that their actions were genuine,” said Shin Jung-woo, an analyst at the South Korea Defense Security Forum. . “But I think it’s part of their propaganda.”
It is questionable whether North Korea has acquired the technology to protect warheads from the hot, stressful environment of atmospheric re-entry.
South Korea’s biennial defense document released last week said it was not clear whether the missile could withstand re-entry.
Lee Chun-geun, an honorary fellow at South Korea’s Institute of Science and Technology Policy, said a normal trajectory would create more stress because the warhead would spend more time passing through dense air altitudes.
North Korean state media said the launch took place “suddenly” on Kim Jong Un’s sudden orders.
Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said, “The Kim regime’s claims of emergency launches are intended to demonstrate not only the development of strategic and tactical nuclear forces, but also their operational capability to use them. are doing.
At a military parade earlier this month, North Korea displayed about 10 ICBMs. This is an unprecedented number, suggesting that efforts are underway to mass-produce powerful weapons.
Among them was a giant canister-sealed missile that experts say was likely a version of the solid-fuel ICBM North Korea has been trying to develop in recent years.The solid-fuel system allows the missile to travel on the ground. , which increases the rate of fire.
North Korea likely possesses dozens of nuclear warheads. The question is whether they are small enough to fit on the missile.
North Korea has so far conducted six underground nuclear explosion tests to produce warheads that can be loaded onto missiles. External estimates of the number of North Korean nuclear warheads range from 20-60 up to about 115.
In a 2021 interview with 38 North, a website focused on North Korea, renowned nuclear physicist Siegfried Hecker, who has visited North Korea’s main Yongbyon nuclear facility many times, said, “There are 20 to 60 possibilities. possible, and the most likely number is 45.”
Citing the years spent on its nuclear and missile programs, some experts argue that North Korea is likely already producing miniature nuclear warheads for its missiles. But some say North Korea is still years away from producing such a warhead.
“After the sixth nuclear test, people admitted that North Korea does have nuclear weapons, but they are still debating whether it has warhead miniaturization technology.
North Korea has described its sixth nuclear test in 2017 as the detonation of a thermonuclear bomb manufactured for an intercontinental ballistic missile. It caused a tremor that measured 6.3 on the Richter scale, and some studies put its estimated explosive power at about 50 to 140 kilotons of TNT. By comparison, it was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. The two atomic bombs killed more than 210,000 people in total and detonated approximately 15 and 20 kilotonnes of TNT, respectively.
South Korea’s defense documents, issued biennially, estimate that North Korea has 70 kilograms (154 pounds) of weapons-grade plutonium. Some observers say that’s enough for about 9 to 18 bombs. The document presumes that North Korea also has a “substantial amount” of highly enriched uranium.
North Korea’s Yongbyon complex has facilities that produce both plutonium and highly enriched uranium, the two main ingredients for making nuclear weapons.
Plutonium plants are typically large and produce a lot of heat, making them easy to detect. But uranium enrichment plants are more compact and can be easily hidden from satellite cameras. North Korea is believed to operate at least one additional secret uranium enrichment facility in addition to the Yongbyon facility.
short range weapon
After the breakdown of diplomacy with then-U.S. President Donald Trump in 2019, Kim launched a short-range, solid-fuel, nuclear-capable missile designed to hit key South Korean targets, including U.S. military bases in South Korea. accelerated development.
So-called “tactical” nuclear weapons include what North Korea tested on Monday, calling it a “super-large” 600-millimeter multiple rocket launcher. South Korea describes the weapon as a short-range missile system.
North Korean state media said North Korea’s new artillery system could carry a nuclear warhead, saying four rockets would be enough to wipe out an enemy airfield. This statement immediately raised external doubts as to whether nuclear weapons could actually carry nuclear weapons.
“North Korea’s claims make some sense. Why would they need four tactical nukes to destroy just one airfield?” said analyst Shin. I’m here. “And which country would disclose such an attack scenario through state media?”
Other new North Korean short-range systems include missiles apparently modeled after Russia’s Iskandar mobile ballistic system and missiles superficially similar to the US MGM-140 Army tactical missile system. Launched from land vehicles, these missiles are highly maneuverable and designed to fly at low altitudes, making them theoretically more likely to defeat South Korean and US missile defense systems. .
It has not been independently confirmed whether North Korea has the capability to equip short-range missiles with nuclear warheads.
North Korea may be able to mount simple nuclear warheads on some older missiles, including the Scud and Nodong missiles, but further technological advances are needed to build small, sophisticated warheads that can be mounted on new tactical systems. and nuclear testing may be required. ‘ said Lee, an expert.
North Korea also has medium-range, nuclear-capable Hwasong-12 missiles that can reach Guam, a major US military stronghold in the Pacific. It is developing a family of medium-range, solid-fuel Polaris missiles designed to be launched from submarines and land vehicles.