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The North Korean Nuclear Arsenal

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RealClear Defense

The North Korean Nuclear Arsenal

By Mark B. Schneider

The year 2021 has seen a number of important official statements concerning North Korean nuclear weapons development. In May 2021, General Paul LaCamera, when nominated to be the next commander of U.S. forces in South Korea, stated, “In January of this year, [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-un announced plans and programs to expand its nuclear deterrent, specifically, the development of miniaturized nuclear warheads, tactical nuclear weapons, and even multiple independently-targetable reentry vehicles.” The fact that he cited this statement gives it credibility. In April 2021, Major General Michael J. Lutton, Commander, Twentieth Air Force, Air Force Global Strike Command, stated that:

Specifically, Russia, China, and North Korea share five themes in foreign nuclear development and proliferation:

    Increasing numbers or capabilities of weapons in existing programs;
    Enduring security threats to weapons and material;
    Developing delivery systems with increased capabilities;
    Developing nuclear weapons with smaller yields, improved precision, and increased range for military or coercive use on the battlefield;
    Developing new nuclear weapons without conducting large-scale nuclear tests.

North Korean development of new low-yield nuclear weapons apparently goes back for years. In October 2016, then-Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter stated that “Today, however, it's a sobering fact that the most likely use of nuclear weapons is not the massive nuclear exchange of the classic Cold War-type, but rather the unwise resort to smaller but still unprecedentedly terrible attacks, for example, by Russia or North Korea to try to coerce a conventionally superior opponent to back off or abandon an ally during a crisis. We cannot allow that to happen, which is why we’re working with our allies in both regions to innovate and operate in new ways that sustain deterrence and continue to preserve strategic stability.”

Full story https://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2021/06/30/the_north_korean_nuclear_arsenal_783604.html