Fraught Korea

Updated: Dec 23, 2017, 11:19 IST | Heli Shukla

Since February, North Korea has conducted 16 missile tests, flying the weapons right in the face of international condemnation and stringent UN sanctions

Illustration/Ravi Jadhav
Illustration/Ravi Jadhav

All for self-defence
The primary reason behind North Korea's flurry of tests showing its nuclear capability is self-defence. This began in 2001, during George W Bush's regime. Since he was treating the country as a rogue state, the North actively began developing their nuclear programme, reportedly to not suffer the way Iraq did at the hands of Bush after the 2003 US invasion. Kim Jong Un allegedly continues to boost the development of the nuke arsenal to safeguard himself from being toppled by the US. Another reason for the incessant tests is to analyse, develop and perfect its nuclear programme.

Nukin' it since 2006

October 9, 2006
The first nuclear test took place in the northeastern part of the country, in the deep tunnels dug at the mountainous Punggye-ri region, since the de facto spot for all of these tests. The blast reportedly had the energy discharge of less than a tenth of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The country claimed then it was developing nuclear capabilities for 'peace'.

May 29, 2009
The second time was bigger but rather quiet. No radiation had been detected in this test, which had an approximate
yield between two to eight kilotonnes.

February 12, 2013
This one began with detection of unusual activity at Punggye-ri. North claimed to have tested "a miniaturised and lighter nuclear device with greater explosive force".

January 6, 2016
Bigger and better, North dropped its first hydrogen bomb for a test. Also known as H-bombs, these thermonuclear warheads are more destructive than atomic ones. Kim later declared his scientists had developed a warhead small enough to fit in a missile.

September 9, 2016
A few months after its last nuke test, the North got stronger. This time, the weapon had an estimated yield of anywhere between 10 to 20 kilotonnes.

September 3
North conducted its biggest test yet: that of an H-bomb tiny enough to be loaded on a missile, with a yield of 100-150 kilotonnes. The test caused a 6.3 magnitude earthquake.

Loud voices

Donald Trump, US president
'There is much more work to do. America and its allies will take all necessary steps to ensure denuclearisation and ensure that this regime cannot threaten the world'

Vladimir Putin, Russian president
'Problems should be solved in dialogue, and North Korea should not be backed into a corner'

Have possible solutions worked?
Sanctions: The tried and tested way of the world and the United Nations in dealing with North's aggression has mostly failed to deter the country from developing its nuclear arsenal.

Diplomacy: US has extended a helping hand in the past by trying to normalise relations through food and economic aid. Clearly, that hasn't worked either.

Chinese whispers: Despite a constant stream of pressure from the world, North's strongest ally China has also failed to contain its nuke tests. The country allegedly secretly helped North economically while it was put under stringent sanctions.

This year in missile tests

February 12: Pukguksong-2 (medium range ballistic missile)

March 6: Hwasong-7 (short/medium range ballistic missile)

March 22: Weapon unknown

April 5: Hwasong-12 (intermediate range ballistic missile)

April 12: Hwasong-12

May 14: Hwasong-12

May 21: Pukguksong-2

May 29: KN-18

June 8: Four surface-to-cruise missiles

July 4: Hwasong-14 (intercontinental ballistic missile)

July 28: Hwasong-14

August 26: Two scud missiles

August 29: Hwasong-12

September 15: Hwasong-12

November 29: Hwasong-15 (intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching US)

(Source: CNN)

89
No. of missiles Kim Jong Un has tested since 2011

23
No. of missiles tested this year

1.2 M
No. of active soldiers in the North Korean military

7.7 M
No. of reserve soldiers in the North Korean military

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