Go to contents

North Korea May Have Around Six Nuclear Weapons

Posted May. 09, 2005 23:29,   


The U.S. currently deploys about 5,200 nuclear weapons. If those are combined with the number of nuclear weapons in reserve, the number totals 10,350. Regarding North Korea’s nuclear weapons, it’s generally presumed that the North may have six to eight nuclear warheads. When compared in number only, it is literally a case of extreme opposition. However, the New York Times concluded in its May 8 edition that the threatening powers of the two countries’ weapons are similar.

The New York Times seeks the reason in a nuclear politics in the post-Cold War era.

In the post-cold war era, the “insanity of nuclear war” decided the size of nuclear threat. This means that to what extent nuclear-equipped countries indicate the craziness that they might actually use those weapons or that they could sell them to terrorists determines the degree of fear of their nuclear capability.

In other words, the logic that was prevalent in the Cold War era when power and authority used to depend on the size of a nation’s “nuclear arsenal” no longer applies to the present time.

The New York Times pointed out that from this point of view, North Korea’s six to eight nuclear warheads have as much power as the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and added that for that reason, the U.S. and Russia, which have around 95 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, are struggling with the North’s nuclear development.

If North Korea really uses one nuclear weapon in a test, it means that it would be using more than 10 percent of its nuclear capacity for just experiment.

However, if the nuclear test succeeds, it would increase the political weight of the rest of its nuclear arms, which by no means damages North Korea’s nuclear capability.

In fact, John Kerry, the Democratic nominee in the last U.S. presidential election, criticized the Bush administration throughout the election period that the Republican government was only giving time to North Korea to develop its nuclear weapons as it clung to the futile six-way talks.

When North Korea had only one to two nuclear weapons, it may not have had a surplus for testing or export, but if it has six to eight nuclear arms, it indicates that the North has “surplus weapons,” which may be tested or exported.

On May 8, in response to the question of whether the IAEA estimates the number of North Korean nuclear weapons to be six to eight, Mohammed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), stated in an interview with CNN, “Those numbers are close to our estimates,” adding that a North Korean nuclear test would cause instability in the security of East Asia.

Seung-Ryun Kim srkim@donga.com