North Korea: Is the nuclear threat credible?
NORTH KOREA According to experts, Pyongyang still has obstacles to overcome before becoming a nuclear power in its own right
US military intelligence is now convinced that North Korea has succeeded in miniaturizing the atomic weapon to embark it on a missile – including intercontinental – capable of threatening the United States, revealed the Washington Post on Tuesday. The country has achieved this technological milestone faster than expected, but according to experts, it still has obstacles to overcome before becoming a full-fledged nuclear power capable of hitting everywhere, at any time, in a specific place.
Five nuclear tests on the counter
North Korea conducted five nuclear tests, the latest of which was on September 9, 2016. The bomb was about the same as the one launched on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, or about 20 to 30 kilotonnes. Pyongyang then announced that it is this type of craft that he intended to miniaturize and “standardize” to embark on its ballistic missiles.
The country has carried out numerous missile launches including two successful launches of intercontinental missiles, which experts believe have the capacity to reach the west coast and the east coast of the United States with a range of about 10,000 kilometers.
The head must survive speed and return to the atmosphere
The miniaturization of the nuclear charge and the manufacture of a missile with sufficient range and accuracy are only two elements of a complex equation. The head must survive a flight at 25,000 km / h to propel it into space and, above all, it must resist a return to the atmosphere where friction subjects it to extremely high temperatures and vibrations.
However, according to Michael Elleman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the reentry vehicle broke down during the test of an intercontinental missile on 28 July. With a real shot, the charge would probably have been destroyed before reaching its goal. However, it is possible that the current warheads are robust enough to withstand a shorter missile fire.
Pyongyang slowed down by low stocks of uranium and plutonium
Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear expert at Stanford University, estimates that it may take another five years for North Korea to have a fairly resistant re-entry vehicle. “I do not think they have enough experience with missiles or nuclear tests to be able to implement a nuclear warhead that is small enough, light and robust enough to survive intercontinental ballistic missile firing,” explains -t it.
Siegfried Hecker, who has visited North Korea on several occasions to evaluate his nuclear program, believes that Pyongyang’s nuclear military program is hampered by its low stocks of uranium and especially plutonium, the material of choice for a weapon destined for To an intercontinental missile. According to him, North Korea has uranium and plutonium to make 20 to 25 bombs. It is much less than the 60 nuclear weapons Pyongyang would have, according to US military intelligence, quoted by the Washington Post on Tuesday.