North Korean Nuclear Attack 'Has Never Looked So Credible'

Nuclear development continues as weapons sales to Russia jolt economy
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 28, 2024 4:09 PM CST
North Korean Nuclear Attack 'Has Never Looked So Credible'
US soldiers participate in a joint military drill with South Korea in Paju, South Korea, on March 16, 2023.   (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, File)

With the world distracted by wars in Europe and the Middle East, North Korea has grown into an even greater threat to the West, with increased war rhetoric, a growing nuclear arsenal, and a cozy relationship with Russia. Leader Kim Jong Un has "exploited a fractured global order to harden North Korea into a menacing nuclear state," the Wall Street Journal reports, noting the country's "ability to unleash some form of nuclear attack on the world has never looked so credible, so prone to misperception and so resistant to dissuasion." North Korea's weapons have advanced faster in the past five years than at any other period in the country's history, South Korean policy adviser Kuyoun Chung tells the outlet.

The country could now have 50 to 60 nuclear warheads, up from 35 in 2019, adds Siegfried Hecker, an expert on North Korea's nuclear program. Kim has given up on talks with the US, abandoned hopes of reunification with South Korea, and instead courted Russian President Vladimir Putin while carrying out nine intercontinental ballistic missile tests since 2022, all while Beijing and Moscow intervened to avoid condemnation by the United Nations Security Council. Russia is now benefiting from North Korea's new, sophisticated missiles, being tested on the ground in Ukraine. The missiles, capable of reaching South Korea and Japan from the North, could grow even more advanced with feedback from the Russians, the Journal reports.

Missiles are just one part of the equation. North Korea is thought to have sent 6,700 containers of weapons to Russia, says South Korean Defense Minister Shin Wonsik, per Bloomberg News. In transferring what is likely several billion dollars worth of military equipment to sustain Russia's war, Pyongyang is "providing a jolt to an economy long isolated by international sanctions ... while at the same time enhancing [Kim's] ability to deploy spy satellites and develop his nuclear arms program," per Bloomberg. In return, Russia is believed to be providing the North with food, parts used in weapons manufacturing, and other goods that could further boost Pyongyang's ability to threaten the region, Shin says. (There was also the transfer of a limo.)

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