It’s no secret that North Korea has been ramping up its nuclear weapon program. The country's nuclear arsenal has been expanded to 30 warheads so far.
So how has the country been able to do this?
Well, first the country has been increasing production on weapon-grade uranium and plutonium. So much so, that North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un will have enough resources to double the country’s current arsenal to 60 warheads, according to the the Institute for Science and International Security.
“The bottom line is that North Korea has an improving nuclear weapons arsenal,” said David Albright, founder and director of the Institute for Science and International Security. “The last several years have witnessed a dramatic and overt buildup in North Korea’s nuclear weapons capabilities.”
He also said that North Korea could “theoretically use a satellite launcher” to hit the U.S. but “not with any reliability.”
“It is uncertain, and there are reasons to doubt, that North Korea can yet build reliable, survivable warheads for ICBMs,” said Albright in a briefing paper.
However, South Korea and Japan are in the radar of the shorter-range Nodong missile.
Another reason why North Korea has been able to build up its nuclear weapon arsenal is that there haven’t been any consequences.
The country has hidden its nuclear work and hasn’t allowed international inspections in the recent years, so the U.S. has been relying on intelligence agencies to spy on the country and its nuclear activities. From gathered evidence, it appears that the country has constructed a secondary plant to build warheads.
“Continued underground testing will provide North Korea opportunities to significantly improve its weapons in terms of less fissile material (particularly plutonium) per weapon, increased warhead miniaturisation, and greater explosive yields,” said Albright.
DefCon, the U.S. nuclear warning system upgraded the threat from North Korea to level four this week after speculations that the country will be doing a nuclear missile test Saturday.
Luckily, as both Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said the Obama era of “strategic patience” is over with North Korea.
“The rhetoric was heightened and a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group was positioned in the region after the Stalinist North threatened to test an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the continental U.S.,” writes The Washington Times.
"The officials are hopeful China and Russia would agree to tighter U.N. sanctions on North Korea if it conducts another nuclear test. They pointed to a recent editorial in a state-run Chinese newspaper advocating tighter restrictions on selling oil to North Korea," writes Chicago Tribune. "Beijing's decision earlier this year to cut off coal imports from North Korea also are being seen as a hopeful sign. Coal sales are an important source of revenue for Kim Jong Un's government, and the U.S. says China has turned back some shipments in recent days. Russia and China are critical to any pressure campaign on North Korea because they both hold veto power on the U.N. Security Council."
Although, it looks like China is an valuable alley regarding this issue. President Donald Trump has repeatedly made it clear that the U.S. is going to punish North Korea, with or without China's help.
Author's note: The number of warheads North Korea allegedly has is alarming. It was estimated that the country would have 10 by 2020, but it's already tripled that number. Evidently, the former Obama administration did not take the country's nuclear activities seriously enough. I just hope it doesn't backfire and the new administration can clean up this mess.