Good News: North Korea Has More Nukes Than We Thought

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Apr 24, 2015 12:58 PM
Good News: North Korea Has More Nukes Than We Thought

His imperial majesty, Kim Jong-un, has more nuclear weapons than originally assessed by U.S. officials, and they could double their nuclear arsenal by next year. Currently, the country has at least 16, maybe even 20, nuclear warheads. By 2020, this communist dictatorship could have as many as 100 nuclear warheads (via USA Today):

The Chinese experts believe North Korea has a greater domestic capacity to enrich uranium than previously thought, Siegfried Hecker, a Stanford University nuclear expert and former head of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, told the Journal.

The Chinese estimates were shared in a closed-door meeting with U.S. nuclear specialists in Beijing this February, said the report. The growing stockpile will complicate international efforts to halt Pyongyang's nuclear program, said Hecker, who attended the February meeting.

U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the revelations cast a shadow on the pending nuclear deal the United States and other world powers are negotiating with Iran to curtail that country's nuclear program.

Zhu Feng, a leading Chinese security expert at Peking University, could not confirm the numbers given by the Journal, but agreed North Korea is expanding its nuclear arsenal. "There are a lot of signs indicating North Korea is working very hard on their bomb-making and it is quite likely their warheads and bombs are increasing," Zhu said.

North Korea currently has up to 16 nuclear weapons and could build as many as 100 by 2020, according to a February report by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. The country can put these on at least medium-range missiles capable of hitting most targets in Japan and South Korea, and it is developing longer-range missiles to reach the USA, the report said.

Earlier this week, the United States has re-negotiated a deal with South Korea, who will not be able to reprocess spent nuclear fuel or enrich uranium (via Jennifer Rubin):

The U.S. and South Korea on Wednesday signed a new nuclear-energy cooperation pact that approves Seoul’s nuclear research but doesn’t allow the Asian nation to produce its own fuel.

During nearly five years of negotiations, South Korea has been pushing for U.S. approval to make its own fuel for its fleet of 23 nuclear reactors. Washington has been resistant, concerned about nuclear proliferation in Northeast Asia.

In a compromise, the deal allows Seoul to research a nascent nuclear-reprocessing technology known as “pyroprocessing” that may eventually provide fuel for reactors. The technique is considered by some scientists hard to use to make nuclear weapons.

The Wall Street Journal noted that nuclear technology has been a contentious issue between Seoul and Washington, as the latter is concerned about nuclear proliferation, while the former notes that its neighbor–Japan–is allowed to reprocess spent nuclear fuel from their reactors, but they can’t.

Concerning Japan, there was probably little hesitation over allowing the island nation reprocessing spent nuclear fuel. It’s the only industrialized nation to reject nuclear weapons. It’s also the only country to have suffered multiple nuclear strikes–and the scars remain deep. Yet, it was partially responsible for the creation of one of the most memorable movie monsters of all time. Its armed forces are confined to a self-defense capability only–and the notion of nuclear armament is such a toxic issue that it forced its Vice Minister for Defense to resign in 1999, for suggesting that they do so.

Yet, as the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin noted, South Korea is an ally, a trade partner, and a rational actor in the diplomatic realm. We have nearly 30,000 troops stationed along the 38th parallel to aid in their defense from invasion, yet we can’t trust them on the enrichment of uranium, but with Iran; it’s okay. Something is off here.