Primer: North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Program and International Economic Sanctions

The North Korean nuclear test earlier this month marked the fifth time the country displayed its nuclear capability; a flagrant violation of international law and numerous UN resolutions. North Korean nuclear tests also represent a threat to peace, stability, and security in the Asia-Pacific region. With strong American allies like South Korea and Japan neighboring the rogue state, U.S. interests are clearly at stake.

North Korea’s four nuclear tests over the last 10 years give it the distinction of being the only country in the world that has conducted nuclear tests in the 21st century. Coupled with its ballistic missile arsenal, these nuclear tests represent a serious threat to the United States and its allies in the region.

Despite successive rounds of international economic sanctions over the last ten years, the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea (DPRK) has only grown more belligerent and increased the pace of its nuclear tests. This raises questions about not only the development of their weapons program but also about the effectiveness of economic sanctions as a tool to restrain the regime’s aggressive behavior.

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