By Adam Taylor | Washington Post
Over recent weeks, many Americans have had a rude awakening: North Korea has nuclear weapons. And worse still, it may soon be able to launch a missile that could use one of these nuclear weapons on the United States.
It’s a frightening situation, made worse by the fiery rhetoric coming out of both Washington and Pyongyang. But the crisis over nuclear weapons didn’t come out of nowhere. Here’s a guide to North Korea’s long-standing quest to acquire nuclear weapons.
Where does North Korea’s nuclear weapons program stands at the moment?
North Korea first tested a nuclear weapon in 2006 and it has conducted four further tests since then. The most recent test, conducted last September, featured an estimated 20- to 30-kiloton detonation. The blast it produced was up to twice that of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan in 1945.
A recent U.S. intelligence estimate first reported on by The Washington Post suggested that the country may have up to 60 nuclear weapons, including some that are miniaturized – meaning it may be possible to fit them on a missile. North Korea has been testing intercontinental ballistic missiles at the same time, including one referred to as the “Hwasong-14” that analysts believe could theoretically reach the U.S. mainland.
There remain a number of big questions about the reliability of such missiles and other practical issues such as its ability to “reenter” the earth’s atmosphere intact. But many experts say that Pyongyang has now crossed a major threshold in its weapons program and may theoretically now…
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