Amid escalating tensions, North Korea has warned America of a “super-mighty pre-emptive strike” that would reduce it “to ashes”. Donald Trump, the Commander-in-Chief of the world’s most powerful military, recently called North Korea the “greatest immediate threat” to the US. However, experts say that North Korean missiles are not an imminent threat, adding that the danger is their potential to be fitted with a nuclear warhead. Now, the most important question is: what kind of firepower Pyongyang really has?
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, which it could use to target the US allies in the region. However, it is unlikely that it can put a nuclear warhead on an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) that can hit America. Experts say that it will have intermediate- to long-range missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to American soil ready for launch in about five years.
It is a fact that North Korea has dramatically increased the pace of missile testing. In 2017 alone, it has conducted three successful missile tests and suffered two setbacks. The Asia-Pacific nation has also conducted five nuclear tests since October 2006. Pyongyang has claimed that it will carry out a sixth nuclear test soon. The size of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal still remains a mystery, as estimates put it somewhere between 10 and 16 weapons.
It is also unclear whether Pyongyang has what is known as a “second-strike capability”. If North Korea were struck by a nuke, could it still retaliate with a powerful nuclear strike of its own? If it has the ability, then stakes for any country thinking about attacking North Korea become that much higher (as they would be susceptible to being hit by a North Korean nuke in response). North Korean President Kim Jong-un has claimed that he has a hydrogen bomb, a far more powerful nuclear weapon type than the atom bomb. But, his assertion has not been proven. More likely, he has a boosted atom bomb, which is not nearly as powerful as a true hydrogen bomb.
According to sources close to South Korea, North Korea really has an array of artillery guns and a robust chemical weapons programme. Seoul estimates that its northern neighbour has between 2,500 and 5,000 metric tonnes of chemical weapons, including Sarin and VX nerve agents.
Meanwhile, America has started deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system in South Korea to defence against certain missile strikes. There are also Aegis ships in the Pacific and Patriot missile batteries that can intercept North Korean missiles. America is also conducting missile interception tests with Japan. Moreover, the US has the ability to stop a North Korean missile launch before it even happens with cyber capabilities.
So, America is facing no serious threats from North Korea. It is expected that President Trump will show maturity and leave the Asia-Pacific nation alone. Pushing the country into a conflict will be catastrophic.