North Korea Added 20 Nukes to Its Arsenal

( The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) may now be in possession of 50 nuclear weapons, up by 20 nukes since last year, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). DPRK leader Kim Jong-un has seemingly focused on bolstering the country’s nuclear arsenal.

SIPRI estimated in 2023 that the DPRK possessed 30 nuclear weapons, despite not having tested a nuke since 2017. Nevertheless, the DPRK has engaged in missile tests, which could be used to deliver nuclear weapons.

The DPRK’s development of its nuclear arsenal feeds a “growing concern” that Pyongyang could use the weapons in a potential conflict, SIPRI researcher Matt Korda said. The DPRK is still officially at war with the Republic of Korea (ROK), although fighting has ceased since a 1953 armistice agreement. The reemergence of fighting between the two countries would likely draw in the United States, which is an ally of the ROK.

The DPRK has enough fissile material to develop as many as 90 nuclear warheads, SIPRI found. The DPRK has produced plutonium to use in its nuclear weapons, but may also be working on enriching uranium too, according to SIPRI.

Overall, SIPRI estimates that there are 12,121 nuclear warheads on Earth, down from 12,512 in 2023. The US and Russia are in possession of approximately 90% of the nuclear weapons.

However, the DPRK may have the backing of Russia’s nuclear arsenal, after Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a mutual defense pact. Putin called the pact a “truly breakthrough” agreement.

The leaders signed the agreement during a trip by Putin to Pyongyang, which is Putin’s first visit to the DPRK in more than two decades. Russia has purportedly received supplies from the DPRK for use in Ukraine.

While the DPRK’s own nuclear arsenal appears to be growing, so too does its bonds to the largest nuclear-armed country in the world. Meanwhile, the ROK remains reliant on the US for any nuclear defense options.

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