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Nuclear Disarmament North Korea

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Nuclear Disarmament North Korea

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Arsenal and Missile Types

North Korea is a Non-NPT State with Nuclear Explosive Device


  • 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

Capabilities and Development

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

Commitments & Policies

Disarmament Commitments

  • Acceded to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) on 18 April 1985. 15
  • Announced withdrawal from the NPT in 2003, only withdrawal in NPT history. 16
  • State party to the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT), has not signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). 17
  • No formal commitments to disarmament 18

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

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U.S. Nuclear Policies for a Safer World

Special Report

U.S. Nuclear Policies for a Safer World

NTI Co-Chairs Ernest J. Moniz and Sam Nunn call on the United States to resume a position of global leadership to reduce the risks posed by nuclear weapons.


Nuclear weapon
Nuclear weapon: A device that releases nuclear energy in an explosive manner as the result of nuclear chain reactions involving fission, or fission and fusion, of atomic nuclei. Such weapons are also sometimes referred to as atomic bombs (a fission-based weapon); or boosted fission weapons (a fission-based weapon deriving a slightly higher yield from a small fusion reaction); or hydrogen bombs/thermonuclear weapons (a weapon deriving a significant portion of its energy from fusion reactions).
Ballistic missile
A delivery vehicle powered by a liquid or solid fueled rocket that primarily travels in a ballistic (free-fall) trajectory.  The flight of a ballistic missile includes three phases: 1) boost phase, where the rocket generates thrust to launch the missile into flight; 2) midcourse phase, where the missile coasts in an arc under the influence of gravity; and 3) terminal phase, in which the missile descends towards its target.  Ballistic missiles can be characterized by three key parameters - range, payload, and Circular Error Probable (CEP), or targeting precision.  Ballistic missiles are primarily intended for use against ground targets.
Scud is the designation for a series of short-range ballistic missiles developed by the Soviet Union in the 1950s and transferred to many other countries. Most theater ballistic missiles developed and deployed in countries of proliferation concern, for example Iran and North Korea, are based on the Scud design.
Submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM)
SLBM: A ballistic missile that is carried on and launched from a submarine.
Kiloton: A term used to quantify the energy of a nuclear explosion that is equivalent to the explosion of 1,000 tons of trinitrotoluene (TNT) conventional explosive.
Fissile material
Fissile material: A type of fissionable material capable of sustaining a chain reaction by undergoing fission upon the absorption of low-energy (or thermal) neutrons. Uranium-235, Plutonium-239, and Uranium-233 are the most prominently discussed fissile materials for peaceful and nuclear weapons purposes.
Weapons-grade material
Weapons-grade material: Refers to the nuclear materials that are most suitable for the manufacture of nuclear weapons, e.g., uranium (U) enriched to 90 percent U-235 or plutonium (Pu) that is primarily composed of Pu-239 and contains less than 7% Pu-240. Crude nuclear weapons (i.e., improvised nuclear devices), could be fabricated from lower-grade materials.
Highly enriched uranium (HEU)
Highly enriched uranium (HEU): Refers to uranium with a concentration of more than 20% of the isotope U-235. Achieved via the process of enrichment. See entry for enriched uranium.
Enriched uranium
Enriched uranium: Uranium with an increased concentration of the isotope U-235, relative to natural uranium. Natural uranium contains 0.7 percent U-235, whereas nuclear weapons typically require uranium enriched to very high levels (see the definitions for “highly enriched uranium” and “weapons-grade”). Nuclear power plant fuel typically uses uranium enriched to 3 to 5 percent U-235, material that is not sufficiently enriched to be used for nuclear weapons.
Low enriched uranium (LEU)
Low enriched uranium (LEU): Refers to uranium with a concentration of the isotope U-235 that is higher than that found in natural uranium but lower than 20% LEU (usually 3 to 5%). LEU is used as fuel for many nuclear reactor designs.
Light-water reactor
Light-water reactor: A term used to describe reactors using ordinary water, where the hydrogen is hydrogen-1, as a coolant and moderator, including boiling water reactors (BWRs) and pressurized water reactors (PWRs), the most common types used in the United States.
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)
The NPT: Signed in 1968, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is the most widely adhered-to international security agreement. The “three pillars” of the NPT are nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Article VI of the NPT commits states possessing nuclear weapons to negotiate in good faith toward halting the arms race and the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. The Treaty stipulates that non-nuclear-weapon states will not seek to acquire nuclear weapons, and will accept International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on their nuclear activities, while nuclear weapon states commit not to transfer nuclear weapons to other states. All states have a right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and should assist one another in its development. The NPT provides for conferences of member states to review treaty implementation at five-year intervals. Initially of a 25-year duration, the NPT was extended indefinitely in 1995. For additional information, see the NPT.
Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT)
The PTBT: Also known as the Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT), the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water prohibits nuclear weapons tests "or any other nuclear explosion" in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water. While the treaty does not ban tests underground, it does prohibit nuclear explosions in this environment if they cause "radioactive debris to be present outside the territorial limits of the State under whose jurisdiction or control" the explosions were conducted. The treaty is of unlimited duration. For additional information, see the PTBT.
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)
The CTBT: Opened for signature in 1996 at the UN General Assembly, the CTBT prohibits all nuclear testing if it enters into force. The treaty establishes the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to ensure the implementation of its provisions and verify compliance through a global monitoring system upon entry into force. Pending the treaty’s entry into force, the Preparatory Commission of the CTBTO is charged with establishing the International Monitoring System (IMS) and promoting treaty ratifications. CTBT entry into force is contingent on ratification by 44 Annex II states. For additional information, see the CTBT.
Though there is no agreed-upon legal definition of what disarmament entails within the context of international agreements, a general definition is the process of reducing the quantity and/or capabilities of military weapons and/or military forces.
The positioning of military forces – conventional and/or nuclear – in conjunction with military planning.
United Nations Security Council
United Nations Security Council: Under the United Nations Charter, the Security Council has primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. The Council consists of fifteen members, five of which—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—are permanent members. The other ten members are elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms. The five permanent members possess veto powers. For additional information, see the UNSC.
Punitive measures, for example economic in nature, implemented in response to a state's violation of its international obligations.


  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.


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