Now That North Korea Has Nukes, What Will It Do With Them?

Now That North Korea Has Nukes, What Will It Do With Them?
Soldiers in tanks move through Kim Il Sung square during a military parade, Pyongyang, North Korea, April 15, 2017 (AP photo by Wong Maye-E).

North Korea’s successful nuclear test this weekend caps off a startling progression over the past 11 years from buffoonish nuclear aspirant to serious nuclear threat. Combined with successful intercontinental ballistic missile launches over the past year, the latest test effectively pushed Pyongyang over the threshold of being able to credibly target the continental U.S. with a nuclear attack.

For North Korea watchers and nonproliferation experts, the development was neither shocking nor surprising. It is Pyongyang’s sixth nuclear test, each building steadily toward the stated goal of a thermonuclear device. It follows a series of successful long-range missile tests that demonstrated North Korea’s successful pursuit of an ICBM. Whether the latest nuclear test was a thermonuclear or advanced nuclear weapon is still unclear, but that is in many ways irrelevant. The weapon’s yield was sufficient to make up for any shortcomings in the accuracy of North Korea’s missile guidance systems in the event it is used against a U.S. city.

The only remaining unknown variable in the equation that would give North Korea the ability to strike the U.S. with a nuclear weapon is whether Pyongyang’s claim that it has successfully miniaturized the device is true or mere bluster. But this too is in many ways irrelevant. Even if in reality North Korea is not yet able to load its warheads onto its ICBMs, any planning around a potential military strike against Pyongyang’s nuclear facilities must assume it can.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review