North Korea

Experts guess that North Korea has less than ten nuclear weapons, a tiny amount compared to nations like China, the US or Russia. But the Hermit Kingdom’s unpredictable and belligerent behavior — on one of the world’s last remaining Cold War fault lines — make it an outsized threat to global safety and security.

Simply continuing past policies  —  applying more sanctions and beefing up military capabilities in the region  —  will almost certainly fail, but more ominously will likely result in one or more of three outcomes, all of them bad: accidental war or military miscalculation; weapons-grade plutonium or uranium secreted out of North Korea; and Pyongyang increasing its leverage by continuing to produce fissile material.

Latest News and Analysis on Nuclear Weapons in North Korea

  • North Korea is not only one of the world's most problematic nuclear weapons hotspots, it's also one of the world's most isolated states.It's hard to understand what life must be like for people living in the hermit kingdom, and even more difficult to know what's happening in the nation's extensive gulag prison system. 

    September 9, 2013 - By Molly Maser
  • Eisenhower wanted it; Kennedy almost got it; Clinton negotiated it; and now Obama can deliver it.  It is the longest-sought, hardest-fought for goal in the history of nuclear arms control: a global ban on nuclear weapons tests.

    August 20, 2013 - By Joe Cirincione
  • The debate over Syria’s possible use of chemical weapons has been dominating the headlines. Were deadly nerve agents used? If so by whom? Was the use intentional? These questions are important since President Obama has intimated that, if confirmed, the use of chemical weapons could change U.S. policy toward the Syrian civil war. The specifics of what the United States would do differently are unclear. What is clear, though, is that the use of chemical weapons characteristically changes the way we perceive the conflict. It is, as Obama stated, a “game changer.”

    May 10, 2013 - By Paul Carroll
  • Last week’s announcement that the U.S.-South Korea nuclear cooperation agreement would be extended for two additional years dashes the hopes of those South Korean hawks who seek to make their country a nuclear weapons state, at least for the time being. Indeed, the prospect of a nuclear-armed South Korea was so alarming to some that The New York Times ten days earlier published an editorial that came out against a nuclear cooperation agreement that would allow South Korea to enrich uranium and reprocess U.S.-sourced fuel rods to separate plutonium. For many readers, this might have caused a double take when North Korea has been leading the headlines as the region’s nuclear problem. What’s going on?

    April 29, 2013 - By Philip Yun
  • As tensions have risen in the face of North Korea’s heated rhetoric, the U.S. media has been running non-stop, and often inflammatory, coverage of every new development. Unfortunately, much of the coverage has been neither useful nor informative and cuts against the opinion of many North Korea experts by touting the DPRK as a direct threat to the United States. Most experts aren’t concerned with the prospect of a preemptive military strike from North Korea. We’ve seen this pattern of provocation before. Instead, experts worry that the situation could spiral out of control, spurring a real crisis on the Korean peninsula.

    April 17, 2013 - By Rebecca Remy
  • Since its most recent nuclear test on February 12, 2013, there has been a lot of attention to and activity around North Korea. The test – it’s third and most “successful” to date – elicited a predictable response in the passage of additional U.N. Security Council sanctions the. But the fact that the sanctions passed unanimously – with China’s consent – is significant, although it is still unclear if this marks a shift in Chinese policy toward North Korea. In short, the North’s latest behavior seems to have raised the game with respect to the stability and security in Northeast Asia.

    April 2, 2013 - By admin
  • We've doubled down on a defense that doesn't work against missiles that don't exist.

    March 21, 2013 - By Joe Cirincione
  • It will be days or weeks before the world knows much about the nuclear test conducted by North Korea mid-day Tuesday local time in Pyongyang. What was its actual yield? What did it use – plutonium or highly enriched uranium, or some combination? Did it perform as expected? What will the international response be? Is this a game changer?

    February 12, 2013 - By Paul Carroll
  • With the real possibility of Syria’s use of chemical weapons and the security of their stockpiles in question, the comparison to a nuclear scenario is not hard to imagine.

    December 18, 2012 - By Jessica Sleight
  • As the United Nations Security Council considers a response to the North Korean missile launch, I’d like to offer my view on the immediate “winners and losers” from this episode.

    December 12, 2012 - By Paul Carroll