Nuclear Disarmament North Korea

Non-NPT State with Nuclear Explosive Device

Arsenal Size

  • Estimated arsenal: 10 nuclear weapons based on plutonium inventories; level of sophistication unknown. [1]
  • First claimed to have nuclear weapons on 10 February 2005. [2]
  • Conducted first nuclear test 3 October 2006. [3]

Key Delivery Systems: Ballistic Missiles

In September 2016, North Korea claimed it had successfully built a warhead that could fit on a missile. [4]

  • Operational: Hwasong-5 (Scud-B variant), Hwasong-6 and Hwasong-7 (Scud-C variants), KN-02, Taepodong-1, Taeopodong-2 (two stage), Unha-3 (three stage, also known as Taepodong-3), and No-Dong-1. [5]
  • Under development/testing: Musudan, Hwasong-12, KN-08, KN-14, KN-11 (SLBM), KN-15, KN-20, KN-22, KN-23, and KN-18. [6]

Destructive Power

  • Total yield: Unknown
  • Conducted six underground nuclear tests: 2006, 2009, 2013, two in 2016, and 2017. [7]
  • Highest explosive yield: 100-370 kilotons (kT) for September 2017 test. [8]

Military Fissile Material Stockpile (estimated)

  • Weapons-grade plutonium: estimated stockpile of 20-40kg [9]
  • Highly-enriched uranium: estimated stockpile of 250-500 kg. [10]
  • In 2010, North Korea unveiled a uranium enrichment plant capable of producing 40 kg of HEU per year which it claims will be used to produce low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel for the light-water reactor (LWR) under construction. [11] The LWR is still inoperable. [12]
  • In September 2013, North Korea restarted its plutonium reactor at Yongbyon, which is capable of producing plutonium for nuclear weapons. [13]
  • In July 2018, open-source analysis revealed a possible second covert uranium enrichment plant in Kangson. [14]

Disarmament Commitments

Nuclear Weapons Policies

  • North Korea repeatedly violated the NPT from its accession in 1985 until its withdrawal in 2003. [19]
  • North and South Korea signed the 1992 Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, in which both states agreed not to ”test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons,” but never agreed on a verification method. [20] On 23 January 2013, North Korea formally voided the 1992 Joint Declaration with South Korea. [21]
  • The United Nations Security Council has issued several resolutions (USNCRs 1718, 1874, 2094, 2270 and 2321) condemning North Korea’s nuclear tests and imposing sanctions in response. [22]
  • During the 2018 Singapore summit, North Korea and the US jointly-stated, “Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” [23]
  • During his 2019 New Year’s address, Kim Jong Un stated that “[the DPRK will] neither make and test nuclear weapons any longer nor use and proliferate them.” [24]

Sources:
[1] Shannon N. Kile and Hans M. Kristensen, “6. World Nuclear Forces,” in SIPRI Yearbook 2018, SIPRI, www.sipriyearbook.org.
[2] Kelsey Davenport, “Chronology of US- North Korea Nuclear and Missile Diplomacy,” Arms Control Association, April 2017, www.armscontrol.org.
[3] David E. Sanger, “North Koreans Say They Tested Nuclear Device,” The New York Times, 9 October 2006, www.nytimes.com.
[4] Peter Crail, “Worldwide Ballistic Missile Inventories,” Arms Control Association, updated January 2012, www.armscontrol.org; Jeffrey Lewis, “Origins of the Musudan IRBM,” Arms Control Wonk, 11 June 2012, www.armscontrolwonk.com; “Missiles of the World,” Missile Threat, www.missilethreat.com; Kelsey Davenport ibid.
[5] Kelsey Davenport, “Worldwide Ballistic Missile Inventories,” Arms Control Association, updated December 2017, www.armscontrol.org; Kelsey Davenport “North Korea Profile,” Arms Control Association, June 2018, www.armscontrol.org.
[6] Kelsey Davenport, “Worldwide Ballistic Missile Inventories,” Arms Control Association, updated December 2017, www.armscontrol.org; Kelsey Davenport “North Korea Profile,” Arms Control Association, June 2018, www.armscontrol.org.
[7] CNN Library, “North Korea Nuclear Timeline Fast Facts,” CNN, 3 April 2018, www.cnn.com.
[8] “North Korea’s Missile and Nuclear Programme,” BBC, 19 September 2018, www.bbc.com.
[9] Shannon N. Kile and Hans M. Kristensen, “6. World Nuclear Forces,” in SIPRI Yearbook 2018, SIPRI, www.sipriyearbook.org.
[10] Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “North Korean Nuclear Capabilities, 2018,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 74, No.1 (2018), p. 41-51.
[11] David E. Sanger and Joseph Berger, “Arms Bid Seen in North Korea Plant,” The New York Times, 21 November 2010, www.nytimes.com.
[12] Olli Heinonen, “North Korea’s Enrichment: Capabilities and Consequences,” 38North at Johns Hopkins University, 22 June 2011, www.38north.org.
[13] Siegried S. Hecker, “North Korea Reactor Restart Sets Back Denuclearization,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 17 October 2013, https://thebulletin.org; Kelsey Davenport, “Images Signal N. Korean Reactor Restart” Arms Control Today from the Arms Control Association, October 2013, www.armscontrol.org; Kelsey Davenport, “Arms Control and Proliferation Profile: North Korea,” Arms Control Association, June 2018, www.armscontrol.org.
[14] Ankit Panda, “Exclusive: Revealing Kangson, North Korea’s First Covert Uranium Enrichment Site,” The Diplomat, 13 July 2018, www.thediplomat.com.
[15] Kelsey Davenport, “Chronology of US- North Korea Nuclear and Missile Diplomacy,” Arms Control Association, April 2017, www.armscontrol.org.
[16] “N. Korea Withdraws from Nuclear Pact,” BBC, 10 January 2003, www.bbc.co.uk.
[17] Inventory of International Nonproliferation Organizations & Regimes, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, www.nonproliferation.org.
[18] Daryl Kimball, Peter Crail, Xiaodon Liang, “The Six-Party Talks at a Glance,” Arms Control Association, updated May 2012, www.armscontrol.org.
[19] David Fischer, “The DPRK's Violation of Its NPT Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA,” excerpt from History of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, 1997, www.iaea.org; Robert A. Wampler, “North Korea and Nuclear Weapons: The Declassified U.S. Records,” National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 87, 25 April 2003, www.gwu.edu.
[20] Daryl Kimball and Kelsey Davenport, “Chronology of U.S - North Korean Nuclear and Missile Diplomacy,” Arms Control Association, last updated April 2017, www.armscontrol.org.
[21] Kelsey Davenport, “Chronology of U.S - North Korean Nuclear and Missile Diplomacy,” Arms Control Association, December 2018, www.armscontrol.org.
[22] United Nations Security Council, “Resolution 1718” 14 October 2006, www.un.org; “Resolution 1874,” 12 June 2009, www.un.org; United Nations Security Council, “Resolution 2094,” 7 March 2013, www.un.org; “Resolution 2270,” 2 March 2016, www.un.org; “Resolution 2321,” 30 November 2016, www.un.org.
[23] “Joint Statement of President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at the Singapore Summit,” Official Statement, The White House, 12 June 2018, www.whitehouse.gov.
[24] Kim Jong Un, “2019 New Year Address,” Speech, 1 January 2018, The National Committee on North Korea, www.ncnk.org.

June 28, 2019
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The Nuclear Disarmament Resource Collection contains information and analysis of nuclear weapons disarmament proposals and progress worldwide, including detailed coverage of disarmament progress in countries who either possess or host other countries' nuclear weapons on their territories.

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2019.