• Polymath Weekly

North Korea's nuclear agenda: everything you need to know

North Korea appears to have resumed its nuclear activities at the Yongbyon nuclear reactor,

Yongbyon (Nyongbyon) plutonium site, North Korea [Image Credit: the BBC]

the UN's atomic agency has said in a report.

Yongbyon, or Nyongbyon, is a major nuclear

facility about 100 km north of the nation's capital, Pyongyang.


Here are a few guide questions to acquaint you with what's going on:


How do we know the Yongbyon reactor was restarted?


The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), though expelled by North Korea in 2009, still relies on satellite imagery to observe the country's nuclear activity. Since IAEA inspectors were driven out, the country continued to develop nuclear weapons, holding its last test in 2017.


According to IAEA's observations, the Yongbyon reactor has been discharging cooling water since July 2021 -- a strong indicator that it is functioning.


What kind of nuclear activity are we talking about?


One of the most powerful weapons that North Korea has ever revealed to the world is Hwasong-14, a mobile intercontinental ballistic missile. In other words, it is a 33.8-ton rocket-looking weapon that is capable of traveling as far as 10,000 km. This means that if fired from North Korea from a maximum trajectory, it could well reach New York, US.


Another example of a colossal element in North Korea's weaponry is the new submarine-launched ballistic missile, launched at the January 2021 military parade supervised by the country's leader Kim Jong Un. Though the weapon's capabilities remain unknown, the state media did describe it as "the world's most powerful weapon."


Why is North Korea so invested in expanding its nuclear arsenal?


The most common explanation for North Korea's hyper fixation on maintaining its nuclear activities is the ultimate goal to reach the United States.


North Korea believes that the US is secretly planning to remove Kim Jong Un from power, so the country sees nuclear weapons as a means of authentic protection and guarantee that the leader will be spared from the fate similar to the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.





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