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"Not So Fast: Pyongyang's Nuclear Weapons Ambitions"

"Not So Fast: Pyongyang's Nuclear Weapons Ambitions"

Op-Ed, Georgetown Journal of International Affairs

February 20, 2013

Authors: Dana Struckman, Terence Roehrig, Former Research Fellow, International Security Program/Project on Managing the Atom, 2012–2014

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security; Managing the Atom; Science, Technology, and Public Policy


Once again, North Korea has reminded the world of its intention to develop a nuclear weapons capability. North Korea's February 12 nuclear test is reported to have been in the six to ten kiloton (kt) range, a relatively modest yield in comparison to most nuclear weapons tests. As North Korea continues its efforts, it is important to consider the enormous difficulty that even developed states have encountered on their way to becoming members of the nuclear club.

The production of nuclear materials and their eventual weaponization, coupled with the complexities of the delivery systems, guidance sets and myriad other components makes this endeavor challenging on multiple levels. Can North Korea eventually become a nuclear power? Sure, but it won't be easy…or cheap. Can North Korea overcome the remaining technological hurdles to operationalize a nuclear weapons capability? Does Pyongyang have the capacity and resources to maintain and operate its nuclear capability over the long term? Can we gather any insights into what its nuclear strategy might be?

North Korea has conducted two earlier nuclear tests....

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For Academic Citation:

Struckman, Dana and Terence Roehrig. "Not So Fast: Pyongyang's Nuclear Weapons Ambitions." Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, February 20, 2013.

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