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Nuclear North Korea

Ever since the cessation of hostilities in the 1950’s, North Korea has drifted into a state of virtual isolation. The border between it and its southern neighbor is heavily militarized, and skirmishes between the two sides have occurred regularly since the beginning of the ceasefire. The UN has imposed a number of sanctions on North Korea, most recently due to its rocket launch, which many claim was a disguised long-range missile test.


Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, North Korea has been trying to develop a nuclear force of its own, in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Two nuclear tests have been conducted in 2006 and 2009. Last Thursday, North Korean officials promised “high-level tests” in a move aimed at the US, its “arch-enemy.” A day later, it promised retaliation against South Korea if it participated in the UN sanctions.

North Korea is thought to have enough nuclear material (enriched uranium or plutonium) to make several small bombs, but many believe it lacks the technological sophistication for the construction of a nuclear warhead. Last year, it has also stepped up its space program, launching two rockets in the span of eight months. The first launch was a failure, but the second placed a satellite into orbit. The technology in a multi-stage rocket is distressingly similar to that of a long-range ballistic missile, and these tests could indicate a drastic increase in the North Korean technological capabilities.

The UN has promised more sanctions should the North complete this test, but this threat does not seem to dissuade it in the slightest. North Korea’s saber-rattling, once considered an empty threat, is now beginning to carry some real weight in the Pacific region.

Written by Will Morris’16


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