North Korea tests new weapon bolstering nuclear capability

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North Korea tests new weapon bolstering nuclear capability

  • North Korea has test-fired a new type of tactical guided weapon designed to boost its nuclear fighting capability a day before its chief rivals, the United States and South Korea, begin annual drills that the North views as an invasion rehearsal.
  • The 13th weapons test this year came amid concerns that North Korea may soon conduct an even larger provocation.

North Korean Nuke Capabilities

  • North Korea has been conducting regular missile tests as part of its weapons development programme.
  • Hypersonic as well as short-range, intermediate-range and long-range ballistic missiles have all been tested since the start of the year.
  • The latest test launch was of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
  • If confirmed, this would be the first time an ICBM has been fired since 2017, breaking Pyongyang's self-imposed moratorium on such tests.

Missiles that can reach the US

  • North Korea's Hwasong-14 has a potential range of 8,000km - although some studies suggested it could travel as far as 10,000km if fired on a maximum trajectory.
  • This would give Pyongyang its first truly intercontinental ballistic missile, capable of reaching New York.
  • It's Hwasong-15 missile is believed to have a range of 13,000km, putting all of the continental US in its sights.

What does Kim Jong-un want?

  • In October 2020, North Korea unveiled a new ballistic missile.
  • Like the Hwasong-15, it is a two-stage liquid fuelled missile, but with a greater length and diameter. It could possibly carry multiple warheads.
  • As yet unnamed, it is believed to be able to deliver a nuclear warhead to anywhere in the US, and its size surprised even seasoned analysts when it was put on show in 2020.
  • In January 2021, North Korea unveiled another missile - a new type of submarine-launched ballistic missile which it declared to be "the world's most powerful weapon".
  • The unveiling of the new missiles appeared to be a message to the Biden administration of the North's growing military prowess, say experts.
  • In March 2021, it carried out a launch of what it called a "new-type tactical guided projectile", which it said was able to carry a payload of 2.5 tons - so capable of in theory of carrying a nuclear warhead.
  • The weapon has not been formally identified. Analysts at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies told Reuters that it appeared to be "an improved variant" of a previously tested missile, the KN-23.

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  • The test last September of a long-range cruise missile could pose yet more challenges for defence systems, as these missiles don't have to follow a straight trajectory and can be programmed to avoid detection.
  • It could travel up to 1,500km (930 miles), putting much of Japan within range, although it's not clear as yet how it is guided, and whether it could carry a nuclear payload.
  • Unlike ballistic missiles, current UN Security Council sanctions do not prohibit North Korea from testing cruise missiles.
  • The hypersonic missile tested last September can travel at much faster speeds, and avoid radar detection for longer than ballistic missiles.
  • It's believed that North Korea may also be able to transport and store it fully fuelled, allowing for quicker launch times.

Thermonuclear bombs

  • It was on 3 September 2017 that North Korea conducted by far its largest nuclear test to date - at its Punggye-ri test site.
  • Estimates of the device's explosive power, or yield, ranged from 100-370 kilotons. A yield of 100 kilotons would make the test six times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

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  • North Korea claimed this test was its first thermonuclear weapon - the most potent form of nuclear explosion where an atomic detonation is boosted by a secondary fusion process to produce a far bigger blast.
  • In April 2018, North Korea announced it would suspend further nuclear tests because its capabilities had been "verified".
  • North Korea also promised to dismantle the Punggye-ri site and in May 2018 blew up some of the tunnels in the presence of foreign journalists - but with no international experts .
  • As dialogue got underway between Kim Jong-un and President Trump's administration that year, Pyongyang also said that it would destroy all its nuclear material enrichment facilities.
  • However, the talks with the US were inconclusive.
  • The UN's atomic agency reported in 2021 that on the basis of satellite imagery, it appeared North Korea had restarted the Yongbyon reactor, thought to be its main source of weapons-grade plutonium.
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that the nuclear programme was going "full steam ahead," with work on plutonium separation, uranium enrichment and other activities.

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Indo North Korea Relations

  • India signalled upgraded ties with North Korea, by sending Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju to participate in an event marking the North Korean national Independence Day.
  • India's bilateral ties with North Korea have been frosty for several decades mainly due to the latter's close strategic ties with Pakistan.
  • North Korea is estimated to have one of the largest global deposits of minerals and rare earth metals necessary for India's IT industry and electronic majors.
  • Diplomats are not ruling out the possibility that a dramatic change in bilateral ties like what the U.S. achieved with Iran and Cuba could possibly also occur in case of North Korea.
  • "There is a rush for strategic resources in countries like North Korea that were blockaded and sanctioned away from the global economy.
  • India should be an early bird in North Korea just in case North Korean economic ties with the world undergo change in near future,"
  • BBC has announced that it will start a service targeting North Korea in the near future.
  • BBC's move shows that the world is impatient to reach out to North Korea.
  • A major factor that inhibited India's steps towards the North Korean market in the past was the sensitivity of South Korea towards such a move.
  • Among the permanent members, France was the closest to the Indian position, favouring the inclusion of India, Brazil, Japan and Germany (G-4) and an African representative as permanent members and expansion of the non-permanent category of members.
  • France even expressed no objection to the veto power being extended to the new permanent members. The U.K. supported G-4 as the new permanent members, but without veto. India and the G-4 have exhausted all the arguments in favour of expansion and they have to be more and more inventive in promoting their proposals.
  • They have already made a compromise on the veto, the claim to which would be suspended for fifteen years or so.
  • G-4 has so far maintained a façade of unity, but each of them may be amenable to bilateral deals if any one of them becomes a liability for the other three.
  • Germany has already toned down its demand for permanent membership because of over representation of Europe. This may well be the motive for France and the U.K. also to support G-4.

Exam Track

Prelims Takeaway

  • N. Korea’s Nuclear weapons

Mains Track

Q. India- North Korea relations have always been frosty since the times immemorial. The current geo-political developments are a proof that the strained relations are not improving in the near future. Critically analyse.