North Korea: We can fit nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles

North Korea says that now they have a miniature nuclear warhead. If true, it would be a kind of breakthrough, wouldn’t be? So how do you asses this statement? Read few comments.

Benjamin Habib, Lecturer in Politics & International Relations, Department of Politics, Philosophy and Legal Studies, La Trobe University

It has been clear for many years that North Korea is making an end run at developing a deployable nuclear weapon.  Warhead miniaturisation is, with a reliable long-range missile delivery system, the final technical hurdle for North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.  If Kim Jong Un’s miniaturisation assertion is accurate, the development phase of the North’s nuclear capability may be over, however this remains debatable.  In my view, a small, deployable North Korean nuclear weapons capability does not drastically alter the strategic environment in Northeast Asia while the United States enjoys overwhelming nuclear superiority in Northeast Asia and Seoul remains essentially indefensible from short range rocket and artillery attack from the DPRK.  These dynamics have prevented re-ignition of the Korean War for over six decades.

A successful test detonation of a hydrogen bomb would substantiate Kim Jong Un’s miniaturisation claim.  The DPRK’s January nuclear test was inconclusive in this regard, so it is likely that Kim’s claim is rhetorical over-reach at this stage.

While it is obvious that denuclearising North Korea at this late stage is virtually impossible, regional states have not officially acknowledged this fact.  Regional engagement on the DPRK is premised on denuclearising the North.  Regional diplomacy with a nuclear-capable North Korea would need to be reoriented, with diplomatic normalisation of relations between the US, Japan and the DPRK as a potential end-point.  For domestic political reasons, normalisation with the DPRK is poisonous at present in Washington and Tokyo.

Brian Myers, Associate Professor, Dongseo University

This does not change things very much for the South Koreans, who have been living in the range of the North’s conventional weapons for decades. People here are now more interested in the Go contest between a South Korean and Google’s Alphago computer.

But if the North has really miniaturized a warhead, the danger to the US is much greater. President Obama will find himself under much more pressure to solve the peninsula’s nuclear crisis now.


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