"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016
North Korea

Trump Repeats Failing Formula on North Korean Threat

In his high profile address to the South Korean National Assembly Nov. 8, President Donald Trump missed a crucial opportunity to clarify and adjust his administration’s disjointed and, at times, reckless policy toward North Korea. Although Trump indicated earlier today in a press conference in Seoul that he is "open" to talks with North Korea, he has also said in recent days that now is not the time for such talks but instead it is time to apply “more pressure” on North Korea to bring North Korea to bargaining table and to agree to eliminate its nuclear program. While in Asia, Trump has also...

The North Korean Missile Crisis

The nuclear danger posed by North Korea is not new. But since the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House, a bad situation has become far worse. Now, as Trump readies for a trip to East Asia, the crisis enters a critical phase.

This July 28, 2017 picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on July 29, 2017 shows North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), Hwasong-14 being lauched at an undisclosed place in North Korea. Kim Jong-Un boasted of North Korea's ability to strike any target in the US after a second ICBM test that weapons experts said could even bring New York into range - in a potent challenge to US President Donald Trump. (Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)The risk of conflict through miscalculation by either side now may be as severe as during the tense days of October 1962, when the United States and the Soviet Union nearly went to war over the deployment of Soviet missiles in Cuba.

Now, as then, miscalculation could lead to war and escalation to the nuclear level. Millions of lives in South and North Korea and Japan are at risk. Each side must refrain from further threats and taunts and open a direct, private, and high-level diplomatic channel of communication.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration said its North Korea policy would involve “maximum pressure and engagement.” Since then, we have seen pressure, reckless rhetoric, and threats, not engagement.

North Korea responded with accelerated ballistic missile testing, including two intercontinental-range tests. That led China, North Korea’s major trading partner, to announced it was halting imports of coal, iron, and lead from North Korea.

On Sept. 3, North Korea conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test—a thermonuclear blast having a yield of 150 to 250 kilotons. In response, China and Russia voted for new sanctions at the UN Security Council. China’s central bank has also instructed other Chinese banks to stop providing financial services to North Korea.

In his inaugural address to the United Nations on Sept. 19, Trump worsened the situation. “We will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea” if it threatens U.S. allies in the region, he said. Trump has ordered regular B1-B strategic bomber flights near North Korea, which Pyongyang sees as a prelude to war. He called North Korea’s authoritarian leader, Kim Jong Un, a “rocket man” on “a suicide mission.”

In his clumsy style, Trump appears to be trying to intimidate Kim. But the history of the nuclear age has shown that 
smaller states, even those without nuclear weapons, are not easily intimidated by U.S. nuclear threats. North Korea is 
no exception.

To show Pyongyang’s determination, Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho warned that North Korea might conduct a hydrogen bomb test explosion over the Pacific. Ri claims that the United States has effectively declared war on his country and therefore North Korea reserves the right to shoot down any U.S. aircraft that fly over or near its territory.

In October 1962, President John F. Kennedy worked very hard to carefully coordinate all U.S. government messages and signals toward Moscow so U.S. intentions were clear. He exchanged direct, private messages with his Soviet counterpart, Nikita Khrushchev, to seek a way out of the crisis. Kennedy was careful not to rule out certain compromises that would later prove to be essential to resolving the crisis.

But Trump is no Kennedy. The lack of discipline and coordination shown by the Trump administration greatly increases the risk factor. “I think there’s a 10 percent chance the wheels really come off, and we have a full-on war on the Korean peninsula, which would include nuclear use,” warned former NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis on Sept. 28.

Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the UN, and other U.S. officials have unwisely knocked down Chinese proposals to de-escalate tensions that would involve North Korea halting further nuclear and missile tests in exchange for the United States pausing certain military exercises that North Korea sees as particularly threatening.

If each side can refrain from further threats, it may still be possible for a direct U.S.-North Korean dialogue, without preconditions, that sets a new course toward a negotiated or brokered agreement that addresses the concerns of the international community and the security concerns of North Korea.

A commonsense first step would be an immediate halt to further North Korean nuclear and intermediate- or long-range ballistic missile tests and U.S. military exercises and maneuvers that could be interpreted to be practice runs for an attack.

Given that neither Kim nor Trump has ever been known to publicly back down, however, an outside diplomatic intervention may be in order. The UN secretary-general could convene an emergency, closed-door meeting with senior leaders from the members of the past six-party talks (China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the United States) and initiate a serious dialogue designed to lower tensions and address issues of mutual concern. A trusted emissary from a third party, such as the Vatican, could pursue shuttle diplomacy. Alternatively, Trump could authorize a personal representative to meet with a senior representative of Kim to work out a plan to reduce tensions.

As Kennedy said 55 years ago following the Cuban missile crisis, “Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to the choice of either a humiliating defeat or a nuclear war.”

The monthly “Focus” editorials from Arms Control Today are available for reprint on a non-exclusive basis
with permission from the Arms Control Association and link to the original publication online.


The nuclear danger posed by North Korea is not new. But as Trump readies for a trip to East Asia, the crisis enters a critical phase.

Trump Boxes U.S. In on North Korea

November 2017
By Kelsey Davenport

U.S. President Donald Trump is boxing himself in on options for responding to the North Korean nuclear crisis, appearing to rule out deterrence as an approach for dealing with Pyongyang and undercutting calls for negotiations by his own top diplomat.

Representatives from the United States (left), South Korea (center) and Japan (right) take part in three-way talks on North Korea in Seoul on October 18. (Photo credit: ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)Continued confusion regarding U.S. policy toward North Korea comes ahead of Trump’s visit the region Nov. 3-13, which includes stops in South Korea, Japan, and China, and as North Korea downplays the chances for diplomacy with the United States after Trump insulted leader Kim Jong Un at the UN General Assembly in September. (See ACT, October 2017.)

Choe Son-hui, director-general of the North America Department of the North Korean Foreign Ministry, said at a conference in Moscow on Oct. 20 that North Korea is “not planning to hold talks on nuclear weapons” at this time. Choe’s statement reiterated recent messages from Pyongyang that North Korea will not negotiate while the United States engages in a hostile policy.

Choe, describing North Korea’s nuclear weapons as “designed for the protection of our homeland from the constant nuclear threat from the U.S.,” said Washington will have to “get along” with North Korea’s nuclear status. Trump administration officials continue to reject the idea of any acceptance of North Korea having nuclear weapons.

U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster, speaking Oct. 19 at an event hosted by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said that Trump will not accept North Korea “threatening the United States with a nuclear weapon” and that an approach of “accept and deter is unacceptable.” The United States is in a “race to resolve this short of military action,” he said.

McMaster’s comments were echoed by CIA director Mike Pompeo. Speaking at the same event, Pompeo said that the United States is “running out of time” to stop North Korea from developing the ability to strike the United States with a nuclear-armed ballistic missile. Trump has been very clear that he will not allow North Korea to “hold America at risk” and will use military force if necessary to prevent it, he said.

A photo released July 30 by the South Korean Defense Ministry shows a U.S. Air Force B-1B  bomber (top) accompanied by South Korean F-15 fighter jets over the Korean peninsula in response to North Korea's missile tests.  (Photo credit: South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)Trump has made comments in the past alluding to the use of military force or a preventative strike against North Korea’s missile capabilities. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said in an Oct. 11 interview with VOX that the president “has sent us very clear signals about his enthusiasm for military conflict with North Korea.”

“Given the stakes of a potential strike against North Korea, we have to act under the assumption that he’s serious,” Murphy said.

Although prior U.S. presidents have not ruled out such use of military force, Trump’s rhetoric and actions far exceed past threats.

For instance, the United States in September flew B1-B bombers farther north of the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea than “any U.S. fighter or bomber aircraft have flown off North Korea’s coast in the 21st century,” according to a Sept. 23 press release from Pentagon spokesperson Dana White. The mission was a “demonstration of U.S. resolve and a clear message that the president has many military options to defeat any threat,” according to the statement.

Concern about a possible preventative or pre-emptive military strike against North Korea without an authorization for the use of military force from Congress has prompted a bipartisan group of 60 members in the House of Representatives to support a bill calling for a prohibition on “unconstitutional” strikes against North Korea.

The bill, led by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), says that the president must seek an authorization from Congress before conducting a strike. In an Oct. 19 letter to colleagues about the bill, Conyers and several other members wrote that the legislation is meant to “ensure that President Trump cannot launch an unconstitutional strike that experts say would lead to catastrophic war on the Korean Peninsula.”

The legislation also includes a sense of Congress that “conflict on the Korean peninsula would have catastrophic consequences” and that “the president, in coordination with U.S. allies, should explore and pursue every feasible opportunity to engage in talks with North Korea on concrete steps to reduce tensions and improve communication, and to initiate negotiations designed to achieve a diplomatic agreement to halt and eventually reverse North Korea’s nuclear and missile pursuits and to move toward denuclearization.”

Although several different versions of a so-called freeze-for-freeze proposal have been put forward, Russia and China support a version that calls for North Korea halting nuclear and missiles tests in return for the United States and South Korea rolling back joint military exercises.

McMaster has dismissed the idea of an interim deal intended to freeze North Korea’s nuclear and missile activities. McMaster also said in September that he would not comment on the specific preconditions for talks with North Korea, but gave some examples of confidence-building measures that Pyongyang could take, including allowing inspectors into its nuclear facilities before talks on denuclearization can begin.

More recently, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said that the U.S. objective remains a “denuclearized Korean peninsula.” Speaking to reporters Oct. 18 following a trilateral meeting in Seoul with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts, he said that the Trump administration is “dedicated” to diplomacy and will continue to use a “campaign of pressure to bring North Korea to the negotiating table without preconditions.”

Sullivan’s remarks coincide with previous statements on diplomacy without preconditions made by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, but McMaster’s rhetoric appears to reject talks without conditions, and Trump himself tweeted on Oct. 1 that Tillerson was “wasting his time trying to negotiate” with North Korea.

Much of the Trump administration’s pressure campaign has focused on ratcheting up sanctions, including an executive order in September that targets companies and banks doing business with North Korea, but former officials are doubtful that sanctions alone will be enough to get North Korea back to the negotiating table.

Former CIA director James Woolsey told Voice of America in a September interview that sanctions “probably won’t get the job done” but that the United States should do what it can on sanctions, including working with China to “bring them along” on tougher sanctions.—KELSEY DAVENPORT

U.S. draws a hard line on denuclearization and raises the prospect of military action.

MTCR Plenary Discusses Challenges

Members of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) holding an annual plenary in October sought to address challenges facing the 30-year-old accord, including emerging technologies and regional proliferation. MTCR members agree to control exports of missiles and other unmanned delivery systems in order to curb the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Since the voluntary regime began in 1987, its membership has grown from seven to 35 countries.

The meeting, co-chaired by Iceland and Ireland, discussed intangible-technology transfers, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), “catch all” controls, regional proliferation, and outreach to non-MTCR countries, according to an Oct. 20 joint statement.

Members also renewed their commitment to exercising “extreme vigilance” in restricting technology transfers that could contribute to North Korea’s missile program, according to the statement. For the meeting, the United States prepared a proposal that exports of certain UAVs, now tightly restricted as being equivalent to cruise missiles, be treated more leniently, according to an Oct. 11 Reuters report. That reflects an interest by the Trump administration and UAV manufacturers in pursuing increased U.S. drone exports, Reuters said. A State Department official praised the MTCR in an Oct. 25 email to Arms Control Today but provided no details about the confidential discussions.—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

MTCR Plenary Discusses Challenges

Trump, Kim Make Nuclear Crisis Personal

October 2017
By Terry Atlas and Kelsey Davenport

Tensions between the United States and North Korea moved into dangerous new territory last month, as two inexperienced national leaders engaged in name-calling backed up by threats of nuclear conflict.

It remains unclear whether the tension that has been increasing for months, as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un defied international pressure to halt his nuclear weapons program, will drive a serious effort for negotiations or trigger, intentionally or by accident, military action that could cause tens or hundreds of thousands of deaths on the Korean peninsula and perhaps beyond.

North Koreans in the capital, Pyongyang, on Sept. 22 (local time) watch a report on leader Kim Jong Un’s statement denouncing U.S. President Donald Trump as a “rogue and a gangster” who will “pay dearly” for his threats against their country. (Photo credit: Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)
Complicating matters is the fact that the two key decision-makers, Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump, are untested in such diplomatic crisis situations and have shown tendencies to provoke further confrontation.

Addressing the UN General Assembly on Sept. 19, Trump belittled Kim as “rocket man” and used the podium of the world’s pre-eminent peacemaking institution to threaten to “totally destroy” North Korea if the United States “is forced to defend itself or its allies.” In doing so, the Los Angeles Times reported, Trump ignored appeals from his national security team not to make the situation more dangerous and the path to negotiations more daunting by insulting the young dictator.

Kim quickly responded in kind and, for the first time, personally issued a statement directed at a U.S. president, saying that Trump barks like a “frightened dog” and is a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard,” which is a senile or weak-minded individual.

In a sign of further defiance, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho was quoted Sept. 21 as telling journalists in New York, where he was attending the UN session, that Kim is considering whether to test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean, which would be the first atmospheric nuclear test explosion since China conducted one on Oct. 16, 1980.

Ri was likely referring to launching an intercontinental ballistic missile paired with a nuclear warhead into the Pacific Ocean to demonstrate North Korea’s capabilities. That would be a profoundly provocative action, with environmental and health implications from the radioactive fallout, and defy the norm against atmospheric nuclear tests established by the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty.

Trump fired back at Kim using his favored communications weapon, Twitter, writing that “Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn’t mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!” Less provocatively, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Sept. 22 on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that “we will continue our efforts in the diplomatic arena, but all our military options are on the table.”

Yet, any military option comes with significant risks, particularly with South Korea’s capital, Seoul, within range of North Korea artillery just north of the Demilitarized Zone, which may dismiss it as a viable solution.

Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, told The American Prospect in August, “Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis subsequently said, without providing any details, that the United States has military options that would not put Seoul at risk.

The Trump administration has paired its threats with additional sanctions targeting North Korea. Trump issued an executive order Sept. 21 that targets banks and companies that continue to do business with North Korea. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that Washington has the tools to “cut off banks from the banking system in the United States.”

“For much too long, North Korea has been allowed to abuse the international financial system to facilitate funding for its nuclear weapons and missile program,” Trump said in announcing the measures.

Significantly, China’s central bank agreed to cooperate and directed financial institutions throughout China to curtail their loans and other business with North Korea and the North Korean government.

In his address to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 23, Ri said it was a “forlorn hope to consider any chance that [North Korea] would be shaken an inch or change its stance due to the harsher sanctions by the hostile forces.” Ri also called out Trump’s “reckless and violent” words and said that, by insulting North Korea, he made the “irreversible mistake of making our rockets’ visit to the entire U.S. mainland inevitable all the more.”

The Trump administration is seeking to use increasing pressure from tightening economic sanctions, influence from China, and the threat of military action to force North Korea to negotiate denuclearization. “It is time for North Korea to realize that the denuclearization is its only acceptable future,” Trump declared in his address to the UN General Assembly.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans participate in a state-organized, anti-U.S. rally in Pyongyang on Sept. 23.  (Photo credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images)In recent years, diplomacy has not gained traction. U.S. President Barack Obama tried to use UN Security Council demands and sanctions to increase pressure on North Korea while waiting for Kim Jong Un to take steps toward denuclearization, a policy called “strategic patience.” The Obama administration’s insistence on onerous preconditions and misreading of North Korean signals in favor of talks, however, failed to produce results. (See ACT, March 2015.)

As a result, North Korea’s nuclear program raced ahead to produce additional nuclear material for warheads and increasingly powerful missiles. Now, under the Trump administration, North Korea is able for the first time to reach much of the U.S. mainland with its ballistic missiles, although the accuracy and reliability is questionable.

Since taking office, Trump has redoubled sanctions pressures and demanded China step up and said on Aug. 8 that the North would feel the “fire and fury” of the United States if the regime continued its threats and destabilized the Korean peninsula and East Asia. Kim responded with further missile tests and, on Sept. 3, North Korea claimed a hydrogen bomb test vastly more powerful than previous underground tests.

On the diplomatic front, Trump so far has been dismissive of the freeze-for-freeze proposal favored by China and Russia in which North Korea would suspend nuclear and ballistic missile tests and the United States would suspend more provocative elements of its large-scale joint military exercises with South Korea.

Trump may have narrowed his leverage further with his denunciations of the Iran nuclear deal, indicating that he may walk away from that accord and seek to impose new, tougher restrictions on Iran. That may signal to Kim that any deal, even if it is endorsed by the UN Security Council as the Iran deal is, may not be upheld by the United States, meaning that nuclear weapons are needed for regime security. James Clapper, former U.S. director of national intelligence, has said that he does not foresee a scenario in which North Korea relinquishes its nuclear weapons.

That would mean accepting negotiations focused on achieving some level of nuclear arms control and reduced tensions, coupled with U.S. nuclear deterrence policies. If so, Trump may have a choice between becoming the U.S. president who acquiesced to North Korea as a nuclear weapons power or as the U.S. president who went to war to prevent that outcome. Neither of the two U.S. defense treaty allies with the most at risk, South Korea and Japan, seem politically prepared for a serious military conflict with North Korea. —TERRY ATLAS AND KELSEY DAVENPORT

North Korea’s Sixth Test Its Largest Yet

The Sept. 3 nuclear test explosion at North Korea’s underground Punggye-ri test site produced a magnitude 6.1 seismic event, according to specialists at the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) International Data Centre (IDC) in Vienna.

The analysis was made on the basis of information from 41 primary and 90 auxiliary seismic stations that are part of the CTBTO International Monitoring System (IMS). Signals from the nuclear test were also detected by two hydroacoustic stations and one infrasound station. The IMS consists of 50 primary and 120 auxiliary seismic stations, of which 42 and 107 stations, respectively, are certified.

The IDC detected a second event that occurred 8.5 minutes after the initial blast, at approximately the same location, but two units of magnitude smaller. That event, along with a magnitude 3.4 seismic event detected on Sept. 23, have been assessed by the CTBTO and national authorities to have been caused by geologic disturbances created by the Sept. 3 nuclear test explosion.

At a magnitude of 6.1, the Sept. 3 nuclear test was by far North Korea’s largest. On Sept. 14, the CTBTO published a chart listing the range of body wave magnitudes and estimates of yield, which ranged from 140 to 450 kilotons TNT equivalent. Such a blast would be roughly 10 to 30 times the strength of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, which was about 15 kilotons. The largest previous North Korean nuclear test was in the 20-kiloton range.

Analysts Frank V. Pabian, Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., and Jack Liu estimated the yield of the test was roughly 250 kilotons, according to their analysis published in the blog 38 North.

North Korea claimed the device was a hydrogen bomb designed to be carried by a long-range missile. Whether such a North Korean device could be fitted into a warhead small enough and light enough for such a missile is not clear, according to Siegfried Hecker, a former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

In a Sept. 7 interview in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Hecker said the explosive power of the Sept. 3 blast “was consistent with a hydrogen bomb—that is, a fusion-based bomb. However, it could also have been a large `boosted’ fission bomb, in which the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium were used to enhance the fission yield.” More testing, Hecker said, would make it possible for North Korea to arm a long-range missile with ahigh-yield warhead.—DARYL G. KIMBALL

Comparison of Seismic Signals From the Six North Korean Nuclear Tests

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization's International Data Centre estimates the seismic wave produced by the Sept. 3 explosive nuclear test was equivalent to a magnitude 6.1 earthquake. The seismic signals (shown to scale) of the six declared North Korean nuclear tests, as observed at the International Monitoring System station AS-59 in Aktyubinsk, Kazakhstan, show the latest explosion produced a much higher yield than the previous five tests


For now, it is a war of words. That could change. 

The North Korea Standoff Is Now As Bad As the Cuban Missile Crisis

This op-ed originally appeared in Fortune. The nuclear danger posed by North Korea is not new. For more than a decade, the Kim regime has possessed nuclear weapons and has been steadily pursuing the capability to develop compact warheads and longer-range missile systems. But since the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House, a bad situation has become far worse. North Korea has accelerated its missile testing and Trump has vowed a military attack against North Korea if it threatens the U.S. or its allies. The risk of conflict through miscalculation by either side is now as severe as the...

Urgent Need to De-escalate Tensions Between Washington and Pyongyang



Statement from Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball

For Immediate Release: September 22, 2017

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 102

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—The escalating crisis over North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests has now reached an extremely dangerous level. The risk of conflict through miscalculation by either side is unacceptably high.

Mr.Ri Yong Ho, Foreign Ministrer of the Democratic People's Republic of KoreaWe are alarmed and strongly condemn the unecessary and provocative threat of massive retaliation against Pyongyang by President Donald Trump in his UN address on Sept. 19, and we condemn in the strongest possible terms the suggestion by the Foreign Minister of the DPRK on Sept. 22 that his government may conduct a nuclear test explosion in or over the Pacific Ocean in reaction to Mr. Trump’s remarks.

Such a nuclear test would be a threat not just to the United States, but would be a global security and health threat to the entire international community, which has prohibited all nuclear test explosions through the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. A nuclear test explosion over the Pacific could trigger events that escalate even further beyond the control of Washington and Pyongyang.

We strongly appeal to key leaders in the region, particularly the United States and North Korea, to immediately take steps ease tensions and refrain from making any further threats of nuclear or missile tests or military action of any kind. Each side must chose their words very carefully and seek open direct channel of communication to avoid miscommunication and miscalculation. The current path being pursued by both sides leads to catastrophe.

We call on the UN Secretary-General to convene a series of emergency, closed-door meetings with senior leaders from the members of Six-Party-Talks to intiate a serious dialogue designed to lower tensions and address issues of mutual concern.

US Special Representative for North Korea Policy Joseph Yun (L) talks with South Korea's representative to the six-party talks, Kim Hong-Kyun (R), during their meeting at the foreign ministry in Seoul on March 22, 2017. The meeting came as a new North Korean missile test failed on March 22, according to the South's defence ministry, two weeks after Pyongyang launched four rockets in what it called a drill for an attack on US bases in Japan. (Photo: JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)It is past time for a direct dialogue, without preconditions, that sets a new course — toward a negotiated or brokered agreement that addresses the concerns of the international community and the security concerns of the DPRK. Such a course begins with an immediate halt to further nuclear test explosions and intermediate- or long-range ballistic missile tests and any military exercises that could be interpreted to be practice runs for an attack.

As President John F. Kennedy said following the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis: “Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to the choice of either a humiliating defeat or a nuclear war.”

Now is the time to back away from edge of a conflict that could escalate to the nuclear level all too quickly.

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Trump's UN Address a  Failure of Nuclear Leadership



Statement from Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball

For Immediate Release: September 19, 2017

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy, (202) 463-8270, ext. 102; Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 104

Since 1945, U.S. presidents have sought to rally global support and action toward practical solutions curbing the spread of nuclear weapons and reducing the dangerous likelihood of their use. 

US President Donald Trump waits after addressing the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, in New York on September 19, 2017. (Photo: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)Sadly, President Donald J. Trump, in his first, fiery address before the UN General Assembly has demonstrated that he is not up to this most important of U.S. presidential responsibilities. 
Instead, Trump threatened to unravel the widely-supported, hard-won 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers that verifiably blocks Iran’s path to a bomb. Allies and security and nonproliferation experts agree that Iran is meeting its nuclear-related commitments under the deal. Any further steps by the Trump administration to undermine the Iran nuclear deal will isolate the United States, make it harder to confront Iran’s misbehavior in the region, and worst of all, potentially lead to the undoing of the agreement, thereby increasing the threat of war and a spiral of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and beyond.
On the growing tensions over North Korea's nuclear and missile program, Trump likewise failed to appeal to the international community to better implement existing sanctions and to support efforts for a realistic, negotiated solution, instead recklessly threatening to destroy North Korea. It is naive to think that sanctions pressure and bellicose U.S. threats of nuclear attack can force North Korea to change course.

As President John F. Kennedy said following the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis: “Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to the choice of either a humiliating defeat or a nuclear war.”
Trump missed an opportunity to outline a coherent approach on how the United States, Russia, and other nuclear-weapon states could responsibly reduce nuclear tensions and work together to prevent nuclear conflict. At this point in his first term as president, Barack Obama had convened a special meeting of the UN Security Council and won the adoption of a comprehensive strategy (UNSC 1887) to reduce nuclear risks worldwide.
Trump’s address is yet another sign that we are entering a dark and difficult phase in the long-running effort to reduce the threat posed by nuclear weapons.

In the long run, the United States will continue to play an essential and useful role in reducing the risks of nuclear weapons. But in the near term, other responsible U.S. and world leaders must step forward to provide the nuclear leadership that Mr. Trump is failing to demonstrate.

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Sixth North Korean Nuclear Test Creates New, More Dangerous Phase in Nuclear Crisis



Statement from Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball

For Immediate Release: September 3, 2017

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 104

(Washington, DC)—North Korea’s 5.9 to 6.3 magnitude nuclear test explosion September 3 marks a new and more dangerous era in East Asia.

The explosion, which produced a yield likely in excess of 100 kilotons TNT equivalent, strongly suggests that North Korea has indeed successfully tested a compact but high-yield nuclear device that can be launched on intermediate- or intercontinental-range ballistic missiles.

Ryoo Yog-Gyu, a Monotoring director of National Earthquake and Volcano Center, shows seismic waves taking place in North Korea on a screen at the Korea Meteorological Administration center on September 3, 2017 in Seoul, South Korea. South Korea, Japan and the U.S. detected an artificial earthquake from Kilju in the northern Hamgyong Province of North Korea. The Japanese government has confirmed they believe it was North Korea's sixth nuclear test. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images) Still more tests are likely and necessary for North Korea to confirm the reliability of the system, but after more than two decades of effort, North Korea has a dangerous nuclear strike capability that can hold key targets outside of its region at risk. This capability has been reached since U.S. President Donald Trump threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” if Pyongyang continued its nuclear and missile pursuits Aug. 8.

The inability of the international community to slow and reverse North Korea’s nuclear and missile pursuits is the result of missteps and miscalculations by many actors, including the previous two U.S. administrations—George W. Bush and Barack Obama—as well as previous Chinese, Japanese, and South Korean governments. 
Unfortunately, since taking office, President Donald Trump and his administration have failed to competently execute their own stated policy of “maximum pressure and engagement” with North Korea. Trump has greatly exacerbated the risks through irresponsible taunts and threats of U.S. military force that only give credibility to the North Korean propaganda line that nuclear weapons are necessary to deter U.S. aggression, and have spurred Kim Jong-un to accelerate his nuclear program.
The crisis has now reached a very dangerous phase in which the risk of conflict through miscalculation by either side is unacceptably high. Trump and his advisers need to curb his impulse to threaten military action, which only increases this risk. 
A saner and more effective approach is to work with China, Russia, and other UN Security Council members to tighten the sanctions pressure and simultaneously open a new diplomatic channel designed to defuse tensions and to halt and eventually reverse North Korea’s increasingly dangerous nuclear and missile programs.
All sides need to immediately work to de-escalate the situation.
  • The United States needs to consult with and reassure our Asian allies, particularly South Korea and Japan, that the United States, and potentially China and Russia, will come to their defense if North Korea commits aggression against them.
  • As the United States engages in joint military exercise with South Korean and Japanese forces, U.S. forces must avoid operations that suggest the Washington is planning or initiating a pre-emptive strike on North Korea, which could trigger miscalculation on the part of Pyongyang.
  • Proposals to reintroduce U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea are counterproductive and would only heighten tensions and increase the risk of a nuclear conflict.
  • The United States must work with the world community to signal that international pressure—though existing UN-mandated sanctions on North Korean activities and trade that can support its illicit nuclear and missile activities—will continue so long as North Korea fails to exercise restraint. Better enforcement of UN sanctions designed to hinder North Korea’s weapons procurement, financing, and key sources of foreign trade and revenue is very important.
  • Sanctions designed to limit North Korea’s oil imports should now be considered. While such measures can help change North Korea’s cost-benefit calculations in a negotiation about the value of their nuclear program, it is naive to think that sanctions alone, or bellicose U.S. threats of nuclear attack, can compel North Korea to change course.
  • The United States must consistently and proactively communicate our interest in negotiations with North Korea aimed at halting further nuclear tests and intermediate- and long-range ballistic missile tests and eventually to verifiably denuclearize the Korean peninsula, even if that goal may no longer be realistically achievable with the Kim regime in power.
  • Washington must also be willing to do more than to simply say it is “open to talks,” but must be willing to take the steps that might help achieve actual results. This should include possible modification of U.S. military exercises and maneuvers in ways that do not diminish deterrence and military readiness, such as replacing command post exercises with seminars that serve the same training purpose, dialing down the strategic messaging of exercises, spreading out field training exercises to smaller levels, and moving exercises away from the demilitarized zone on the border.
  • This latest North Korean nuclear test once again underscores the importance of universalizing the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. 

Unless there is a more serious, more coordinated, and sustained diplomatic strategy to reduce tensions and to halt further nuclear tests and long-range ballistic missile tests in exchange for measures that ease North Korea’s fear of military attack, Pyongyang’s nuclear strike capabilities will increase, with a longer range and less vulnerable to attack, and the risk of a catastrophic war on the Korean peninsula will likely grow.

NOTE: This post includes a corrected estimate of the explosive yield of the nuclear test explosion.


The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

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Advances in North Korea’s Missile Program and What Comes Next

By Melissa Hanham and Seiyeon Ji
September 2017

North Korea in July test-launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. Such long-range capability, coupled with nuclear warhead advances, has been considered a U.S. redline that could draw a U.S. military response.

A spectrum of diplomatic and military options is available to the United States and allies South Korea and Japan. The risks are significant, and the time available for diplomacy may be limited. In response to the August missile tests, the United States made a show of force, flying nuclear-capable aircraft over South Korea, and President Donald Trump on Aug. 8 threatened North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if it continues to make threats against the United States. A hawkish minority in South Korea has renewed arguments for returning U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to their country or even for building South Korea’s own nuclear deterrent. North Korea responded to Trump’s statements by stating that leader Kim Jong Un would consider testing the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missile toward the U.S. territory of Guam. It appears that this plan is tabled pending a favorable response from the United States.1

Overwhelmingly, military and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) experts agree that there is no way to engage North Korea in a limited war that would not escalate and result in the loss of tens if not hundreds of thousands of lives on the peninsula, including American ones. “If this goes to a military solution, it’s going to be tragic on an unbelievable scale,” Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said at a Pentagon news conference May 19, before the latest escalation in tensions.2 “So our effort is to work with the UN, work with China, work with Japan, work with South Korea to try to find a way out of this situation.”

North Korea’s rapidly advancing nuclear and missile programs pose a growing threat to the region and now the United States mainland, but the threat has not changed dramatically for South Korea, Japan, and U.S. forces based in the region. North Korea already maintains short- and intermediate-range missiles capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction or conventional high explosives, in addition to their conventional artillery and other forces. Yet, growing North Korean capabilities increase the stakes for military confrontation and reduce the time frame for diplomatic options.

North Korea’s ICBMs

On July 5 and July 29 (local time), North Korea flight-tested a Hwasong-14 ICBM. This missile is a powerful two-stage rocket that was tested at a “lofted” trajectory, meaning it went nearly four times higher than across the earth.3 The benefit of this trajectory is that the missile did not overfly Japan. If this type of missile were launched at a more gradual trajectory toward the United States, one calculation places it as likely having a range of approximately 10,400 kilometers (6,500 miles), putting cities such as Chicago at risk. Taking account of the Earth’s rotation, the range may extend to Boston and New York depending on various factors, including the weight of the missile payload.4

North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) has asserted that the Hwasong-14 could carry a “large-size heavy nuclear warhead.”5 North Korea possibly is developing an even larger and heavier warhead than was previously claimed, such as a thermonuclear warhead. KCNA has made repeated claims that North Korea desires this technology, even claiming the January 2016 nuclear weapons test explosion was thermonuclear.

This photograph, released on July 4 by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (second on R) inspecting a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile. (Photo credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

In addition to the Hwasong-14, at least two other ICBMs may be under development. In April, North Korea paraded several missiles systems that were purported ICBMs, including two canisterized systems. Very little can be determined about these systems through open sources because not even the missiles were visible. Although it is possible to dismiss them, these are likely design concepts that are intended for development in the future. In 2012, for example, North Korea revealed a version of the KN-08 ICBM with poor welding and other design flaws that some analysts found suspect,6 until the design became more apparent in subsequent parades.

North Korea intends to use its ICBMs to deter the United States from coming to the aid of defense treaty allies South Korea or Japan in a confrontation. Kim is gambling that the United States would not be willing to risk a major homeland city for the sake of its allies in the region. In this way, North Korea is trying to compensate for its naturally asymmetric position.7

Solid-Fueled Missiles

In February, North Korea tested a new land-based missile with a solid-fueled motor. This missile, known as the Pukguksong-2, is nearly identical to the submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) known as the Pukguksong. It is carried in a canister to maintain an optimal environment for the rocket. A solid-fueled motor offers several advantages over many North Korean missiles with liquid-fueled engines.

North Korea rotates its many road-mobile missiles constantly around its territory and in and out of caves, tunnels, and warehouses to make them difficult for adversaries to locate and track. In 2011, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, “North Korea now constitutes a direct threat to the United States . . . . They are developing a road-mobile ICBM. I never would have dreamed they would go to a road-mobile [missile] before testing a static ICBM. It’s a huge problem. As we’ve found out in a lot of places, finding mobile missiles is very tough.”8 To track road-mobile missiles, military satellites typically track a configuration of known vehicles that travel in convoys. A solid-fueled missile likely needs a smaller convoy because it can travel prefueled without risking the same level of corrosion as a liquid-fueled one. In addition, a prefueled rocket will shave minutes off its launch time, making them faster to use in a conflict.

North Korea revealed a new kind of transporter truck with the Pukguksong-2. This caterpillar-treaded truck is likely made at the tank factory near the launch site. This strange-looking vehicle likely appeared because North Korea can no longer procure wheeled chassis even illicitly. The treaded vehicles will present a different visual signature to the satellites tracking them. They likely are shorter range or need to be moved by rail, and they have a tighter turning radius and more difficulty on steep grades. Nonetheless, more launchers means more missiles, and they will add a dimension of difficulty to continually tracking road-mobile missiles, be they solid or liquid fueled.

North Korea’s SLBM is also solid fueled. After several disastrous explosions and even some rather ingenious fakery,9 North Korea finally had a series of successes in 2016. Like the land-based version, North Korean SLBMs are meant to increase survivability by frequently rotating. They drive up resources needed for tracking the submarines.

Warhead and Re-entry Vehicle

In March 2016, North Korea showed off what it claimed was a nuclear warhead. Set alongside an untested KN-08 missile, the message was clear: North Korea is building an ICBM to deliver a nuclear warhead to the U.S. mainland. It is not possible to confirm that the round, silver object in front of Kim in a photograph was indeed a nuclear warhead. Some features seem credible while others seem baffling. The displayed object would certainly fit on a number of North Korean missiles from short range to long range. If this is indeed a warhead, it could mean that South Korea and Japan already face a nuclear threat from North Korea. On Aug. 8, sources in the U.S. intelligence community relayed their belief that North Korea has developed a warhead capable of fitting on a missile and may have as many as 60 of them.10

Ballistic-missile canisters are displayed during a military parade in Pyongyang marking the 105th anniversary of the birth of the former North Korean leader Kim Il Sung, in an April 15 photograph from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency shows. (Photo credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images)Unfortunately, the only way for North Korea to prove its capability is by inviting experts to examine the weapon or by testing it on a missile in a demonstration similar to China’s 1966 CHIC-4 warhead test on a Dongfeng-2 missile. At such a tense time, no one is encouraging that option.

While many continue to question North Korea’s ability to build a re-entry vehicle (RV), it is likely they have already produced and tested one. In March 2016, Pyongyang distributed photographs of a re-entry simulation in Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the ruling party. Much as is the case with the warhead, it is impossible to prove that the simulation was effective with photographs alone, although the method was the same that the United States used in the 1970s.

Since the test of the intermediate-range Musudan ballistic missile in 2016, North Korea has been using a lofted trajectory to test its missiles. The purpose of this testing method may say a great deal about the crowded geography of Northeast Asia, but it also means that North Korea has been breaching the troposphere with its missiles for several months. The angle at which the missile descends is much sharper than if the missile were targeting the United States.

Therefore, the re-entry vehicle is not being tested under realistic conditions. Nonetheless, the re-entry vehicle is not one of the more complicated parts of the rocket. Its goal is to protect the warhead through the heat, pressure, and vibrations of the atmosphere. On Aug. 12, sources stated that the CIA and the U.S. Department of Defense’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center assessed that the Hwasong-14’s re-entry vehicle would likely be sufficient for a trajectory that targeted the U.S. mainland.11

The Military Option

Along the spectrum of U.S. options, a military attack on North Korea is the most dangerous. Any aggressive military strategies confirm deep-rooted North Korean suspicions and will trigger a counterreaction endangering the lives of tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of South Koreans and the approximately 23,000 U.S. troops stationed there.12 Even putting aside weapons of mass destruction, North Korea is capable of using conventional artillery to shell Seoul, which is only 35 miles from the demilitarized zone. As Mattis said on May 28,

A conflict in North Korea would be probably the worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetimes…. The North Korean regime has hundreds of artillery cannons and rocket launchers within range of one of the most densely populated cities on Earth. . . . This regime is a threat to the region, to Japan and South Korea and in the event of war they would bring danger to China and to Russia as well. But the bottom line is it would be a catastrophic war if this turns into. . . combat if we’re not able to resolve this situation through diplomatic means.13

A preventative strike by U.S. forces, intended to be limited or not, likely would mean all-out war. North Korea knows that it has a limited number of missiles and they need to use them or lose them. Their Scud and Nodong missile drills since 2015 hint at an offensive doctrine, in which nuclear weapons must be used early in a conflict before the Kim regime or its missile and WMD sites can be destroyed.14

In 1994, when U.S. President Bill Clinton contemplated the use of force to conduct a first strike on North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear reactor, the Pentagon concluded that a war on the peninsula would result in 1 million dead and nearly $1 trillion in economic damage.15 This estimation was made well before North Korea possessed nuclear weapons and ICBMs capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.

The human costs of any military conflict will only increase when taking into account Japanese and U.S. citizens, including U.S. soldiers and their families stationed in Japan and Guam. Within North Korea, internal displacement resulting from violence and instability means that a vast proportion of North Koreans will lack access to basic necessities and will be difficult for humanitarian agencies to reach.16 Furthermore, a Bank of Korea study predicts that 3 million refugees will attempt to cross into the South in a North Korean collapse scenario.17 A still greater number may cross the Chinese border.

Negotiating With an Enemy

On the other end of the spectrum is diplomatic engagement, which has suffered repeated failure in the past. The 1994 Agreed Framework between the United States and North Korea sought to limit Pyongyang’s nuclear activities, but broke down in 2002 due to U.S. intelligence about covert uranium-enrichment activities and the George W. Bush administration’s opposition to the accord. The subsequent six-party talks’ attempt to build a permanent peace regime in 2007 was a positive development, resulting in a denuclearization plan involving a 60-day deadline for Pyongyang to freeze its nuclear program in exchange for aid.18 Unfortunately, by the end of 2008, the North Korean regime had restarted its program and barred nuclear inspectors.19

The United States, South Korea, and Japan remain extremely skeptical of negotiating with Kim, who has been consolidating power and fortifying his cult of personality since the December 2011 death of his father, Kim Jong Il. In addition to being a reprehensible regime with profound human right violations, North Korea long has been a spoiler, holding negotiations hostage for petty reasons and failing to meet their commitments as a member of the United Nations. Yet, misunderstandings and offense have been made and received on all sides.

Although prospects for negotiations may seem dim, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in August that the United States could be open to talks if North Korea halts missile testing. If the United States and its allies get to negotiations, North Korea would likely seek political, economic, and security guarantees.

North Korea has left one small window open. Following the first Hwasong-14 missile test, KCNA reported that Kim “stressed that [North Korea] would neither put its nukes and ballistic rockets on the table of negotiations in any case nor flinch even an inch from the road of bolstering the nuclear force chosen by itself unless the U.S. hostile policy and nuclear threat to [North Korea] are definitely terminated.”20 Even North Korea’s August statement about launching intermediate-range missiles to splash down off the coast of Guam was left open-ended based on the behavior of the United States.

North Korea frequently demands an end to U.S.-South Korean military exercises and international sanctions, in addition to recognition that it is a nuclear-weapon state.21 North Korea would likely call for an end to the Korean War, with a peace agreement supplanting the armistice, and for additional security guarantees and aid. The United States and South Korea have largely spurned these demands, with new South Korean President Moon Jae-in repeatedly stating that reducing the joint military exercises is not an option for now and that North Korea’s nuclear freeze and a reduction of the joint military exercises cannot be linked.22

North Korea wants recognition and legitimacy in the international community that may include such things as routine diplomatic relations with the United States. Previously, there have been diplomatic exchanges between the United States and its allies and North Korea, but the United States historically has placed preconditions for talks with North Korea. For example, in 2001, the George W. Bush administration maintained that any negotiation and dialogue with North Korea would have to be preceded by “complete verification of the terms of a potential agreement.”23 The Obama administration insisted on North Korea’s commitment to denuclearization conducted in close alliance with Seoul and other members of the six-party talks.24

An additional challenge is that North Korea has no intention of giving up its nuclear weapons capabilities in the near term. North Korea’s nuclear policy has been influenced at least partially by its understanding of events in countries such as Iraq and Libya. A North Korean statement cites them as examples of “U.S. schemes to overthrow independent countries” by “weakening their military self-defense capabilities.”25 In official statements, North Korea makes clear that it will not “fall victim to the same tragic destiny” by abandoning its access to nuclear weapons.26

If North Korea will not immediately denuclearize and the United States will not accept a growing nuclear threat, the best option is to focus negotiations for a freeze, narrowing though they may be. Siegfried Hecker, a former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory who has made seven trips to North Korea, has called for “Three Nos”: No more bombs, no more nuclear tests, and no more proliferation.27 To this might be added no additional rocket tests28 and no additional missile proliferation.

An medium-range Pukguksong-2 ballistic missile is shown being test-launched  Feb. 12 in a photograph from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency. (Photo credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

These are very tall asks for North Korea, South Korea, Japan, and the United States, and the prospects for securing what everyone wants are low. The task at hand is to incrementally find those low-hanging and, if necessary, reversible agreements that will gradually build trust. The United States was able to negotiate with the Soviet Union under much tougher circumstances.

The stakes for all sides are high, but the time for negotiation, however problematic, is now. The longer the wait, the greater North Korea’s technological capabilities will become, making diplomacy and war more difficult and dangerous.


1. “Kim Jong Un Inspects KPA Strategic Force Command,” KCNA, August 15, 2017.

2. U.S. Department of Defense Press Operations, “Department of Defense Press Briefing by Secretary Mattis, General Dunford and Special Envoy McGurk on the Campaign to Defeat ISIS in the Pentagon Press Briefing Room,” May 19, 2017, https://www.defense.gov/News/Transcripts/Transcript-View/Article/1188225/department-of-defense-press-briefing-by-­secretary-mattis-general-dunford-and-sp/.

3. Ankit Panda, “North Korea Just Tested a Missile That Could Likely Reach Washington DC With a Nuclear Weapon,” The Diplomat, July 29, 2017, http://thediplomat.com/2017/07/north-korea-just-tested-a-missile-that-could-likely-reach-washington-dc-with-a-nuclear-weapon/.

4. David Wright, “North Korean ICBM Appears Able to Reach Major U.S. Cities,” All Things Nuclear, July 28, 2017, http://allthingsnuclear.org/dwright/new-north-korean-icbm.

5. “Kim Jong Un Guides Second Test-fire of ICBM Hwasong-14,” KCNA, July 29, 2017.

6. Markus Schiller and Robert H. Schmucker, “A Dog and Pony Show,” Arms Control Wonk, April 18, 2012, http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/files/2012/04/KN-08_Analysis_Schiller_Schmucker.pdf.

7. Ankit Panda and Vipin Narang, “North Korea’s ICBM: A New Missile and a New Era,” The Diplomat, July 7, 2017, http://thediplomat.com/2017/07/north-koreas-icbm-a-new-missile-and-a-new-era/.

8. John Barry, “The Defense Secretary’s Exit Interview,” Newsweek, June 21, 2011.

9. Catherine Dill, “Video Analysis of DPRK SLBM Footage,” Arms Control Wonk, January 12, 2016, http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/1200759/video-analysis-of-dprk-slbm-footage/.

10. Joby Warrick et al., “North Korea Now Making Missile-Ready Weapons, U.S. Analysts Say,” The Washington Post, August 8, 2017. See Ankit Panda, “U.S. Intelligence: North Korea May Already Be Annually Accruing Enough Fissile Material for 12 Nuclear Weapons,” The Diplomat, August 9, 2017, http://thediplomat.com/2017/08/us-intelligence-north-korea-may-already-be-annually-accruing-enough-fissile-material-for-12-nuclear-weapons/.

11. Ankit Panda, “U.S. Intelligence: North Korea’s ICBM Reentry Vehicles Are Likely Good Enough to Hit the Continental U.S.,” The Diplomat, August 12, 2017, http://thediplomat.com/2017/08/us-intelligence-north-koreas-icbm-reentry-vehicles-are-likely-good-enough-to-hit-the-continental-us/.

12. “Counts of Active Duty and Reserve Service Members and APF Civilians by Location Country, Personnel Category, Service and Component,” Defense Manpower Data Center, February 27, 2017.

13. “War With North Korea Would Be ‘Catastrophic,’ Defense Secretary Mattis Says,” CBS News, May 28, 2017.

14. Jeffrey Lewis, “North Korea Is Practicing for Nuclear War,” Foreign Policy, March 9, 2017, http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/03/09/north-korea-is-practicing-for-nuclear-war/.

15. Don Oberdorfer, The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History (New York: Basic Books, 1997).

16. Bridget Coggins, “Refugees, Internal Displacement, and the Future of the Korean Peninsula,” Beyond Parallel, February 2, 2017.

17. Na Jeong-ju, “3 Million NK Refugees Expected in Crisis: BOK,” Korea Times, January 26, 2007.

18. The Six-Party Talks at a Glance,” Arms Control Association, July 2017.

19. Ibid.

20. “Kim Jong Un Supervises Test-Launch of Inter-Continental Ballistic Rocket Hwasong-14,” KCNA, July 5, 2017.

21. “DPRK’s Bolstering of Nuclear Force Hailed by Swiss Organizations,” KCNA, December 1, 2016.

22. “Moon Says Reducing Military Drills Not an Option, at Least for Now,” Yonhap News Agency, June 29, 2017.

23. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Remarks by President Bush and President Kim Dae-jung of South Korea,” March 7, 2001.

24. Bruce Klingner, “Obama’s Evolving North Korean Policy,” SERI Quarterly Vol. 5, No. 3 (2012): 111.

25. Ri Hyon Do, “DPRK’s Nuclear Deterrence Is Treasured Sword of Nation.” Rodong Sinmun, June 29, 2017.

26. Kim Sung Gol, “Just Is DPRK’s Access to Nuclear Deterrent,” Rodong Sinmun, May 2, 2017.

27. Steve Fyffe, “Hecker Assesses North Korean Hydrogen Bomb Claims,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January 7, 2016, http://thebulletin.org/hecker-assesses-north-korean-hydrogen-bomb-claims9046.

28. Both space rockets and missiles to avoid the confusion of the so-called Leap Day Deal in 2012. See Ankit Panda, “A Great Leap to Nowhere: Remembering the U.S.-North Korea ‘Leap Day’ Deal,” The Diplomat, February 29, 2016.


Melissa Hanham is a senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and the Mixed-Methods ­Evaluation, Training and Analysis (META) Lab of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. Seiyeon Ji is a research assistant at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

Advances in North Korea’s Missile Program and What Comes Next



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