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N. Korea could have up to 242 nuclear weapons by 2027  

N. Korea could have up to 242 nuclear weapons by 2027  

Posted April. 14, 2021 07:34,   

Updated April. 14, 2021 07:34


Research institutes in South Korea and the U.S. published a joint report on Tuesday that estimates North Korea would have up to 242 nuclear weapons and dozens of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) by 2027.  

The Asan Institute for Policy Studies and the Rand Corp. estimated that the number of North Korea’s nuclear weapons had been increasing by 12 to 18 every year, which was minimum 30 to maximum 60 in 2017 in a joint report titled “How to respond to North Korean nuclear threats.” By their estimate, the total number of nuclear weapons in the North would increase by minimum 151 to maximum 242 by 2027. This is based on the total amount of plutonium (30-63 kilograms) and enriched uranium (175-645 kilograms) that North Korea is estimated to have secured by the end of 2019.  

The institutes projected that threats against the U.S. mainland would increase as the number of ICBMs would increase by dozens by 2027. It pointed out that South Korea and the U.S. are not ready to respond to Pyongyang’s highly utilizable and powerful weapons, and they do not seem to prepare for it either. It analyzed that North Korea would not give up nuclear programs not only for its survival, but also for an upper hand in unification.  

The research team said the two countries should urgently enhance their capacity to deter North Korea’s nuclear capacity and suggested the necessity to deploy medium-distance ballistic missiles equipped with strategic nuclear weapons or warheads to South Korea. They also argued that the U.S. should actively put pressure on North Korea by redeploying strategic nuclear weapons to South Korea and taking other measures as well. Dr. Bruce Bennett of the Rand Corp. who participated in the research, said providing a nuclear umbrella to South Korea by expanding America’s nuclear deterrence is the best way to resolve this in an online seminar held on the same day.

Oh-Hyuk Kwon hyuk@donga.com