North Korea: Sanctions, Nuclear and Missile Threat

Experts predominantly assert that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has developed several nuclear devices but not yet mastered the ability to miniaturize the warhead nor deliver it via missile. Media reports habitually declare that North Korean missiles cannot yet reach the United States. Based on this benign conclusion, policymakers presume the United States and its allies still have several years to diplomatically constrain North Korea’s nuclear program, pursue timidly incremental sanctions, and prepare military defenses. However, this analytic construct is flawed since, for example, it gives insufficient weight to Pyongyang’s lengthy collaborative nuclear and missile relationship with Pakistan. North Korea has likely made greater progress than perceived—warhead miniaturization, the ability to place nuclear weapons on its short-range missiles and a preliminary ability to reach the United States. As such, the United States and its allies face a greater threat today than is widely construed.

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