North Korea is getting closer to a nuclear bomb that can hit the US
North Korea has spent decades developing nuclear devices and the missiles to launch them while threatening to flatten cities in the US, Australia, and Asia.
Though experts in the past could credibly dismiss those threats as fantasy, North Korea has recently made swift progress toward that end.
“I wouldn’t be incredibly surprised if it happened in the next few months,” Mike Elleman, the senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told Business Insider in May of the potential for a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile test.
“They have a higher tolerance for risk. If it fails, it fails. I don’t think that greatly concerns them. They’re more interested in trying to demonstrate what they’re trying to do. [There’s] a lot of political messaging going on with these tests.”
North Korea first tested a nuclear device in 2006, and it has tested missiles since 1984. The missiles started with limited capacity and could be fired only at short ranges. Initial nuclear tests were weak and ineffective.
But now the country seems poised to make a leap toward missiles that could cross the globe with almost unlimited firepower.
Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear scientist at Stanford University, told South Korea’s Yonhap News on June 26 that the North Koreans could produce tritium, an element that can turn an already devastating atomic bomb into a hydrogen bomb.
Stephen Schwartz, the author of “Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of US Nuclear Weapons Since 1940,” told Business Insider that while atomic bombs release enormous amounts of energy through fission, hydrogen bombs increase that energy by combining it with fusion, the same reaction that powers the sun.
“There is no theoretical upper limit on the maximum yield of a hydrogen bomb, but as a practical matter, it can’t be too large or heavy to fit on its intended delivery system,” said Schwartz, who noted that the largest hydrogen bomb designed, Russia’s Tsar Bomba, had an explosive yield of 100 megatons.
Such a bomb, if dropped on Washington, DC, would flatten buildings for 20 miles in every direction and leave third-degree burns on humans 45 miles out, or past Baltimore.
“Those possibilities are sufficiently worrisome that I maintain that the crisis is here now,” Hecker said, not when North Korean missiles “are able to reach the US.” He added, however, that it would take more time for North Korea to weaponize hydrogen bombs. US spy satellites have recently seen increased activity around North Korea’s nuclear test site, but no conclusions can yet be drawn. In the past, North Korea has claimed it has built hydrogen bombs, though not credibly.
On the missile front, North Korea has made fast progress, surprising many experts contacted by Business Insider, who now say the country could test an intercontinental ballistic missile as soon as this year.
A recent rocket-engine test from North Korea could serve as a bad omen. In the past, North Korea has tested rocket engines less than a year before testing the missiles that would use them. Experts said North Korea’s latest rocket-engine test could indeed have been in preparation for an ICBM.
Hecker urged the US to diplomatically engage with North Korea to get it to adopt a “no use” policy with its nuclear arsenal, a concession from the total denuclearization the US currently demands.
Denuclearization so far has been a nonstarter with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader who has written the possession of nuclear weapons into North Korea’s constitution as a guarantor of its security.
“North Korea wants an ICBM with a thermonuclear weapon,” Jeffrey Lewis, the founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk, previously told Business Insider. “They’re not going to stop ‘cause they get bored.”
For now, it seems inevitable that North Korea will get it.
- Trump will reportedly skip visiting the DMZ amid high tensions with North Korea and fears for his safety
- John Kelly says Robert E. Lee was an 'honorable man,' blames Civil War on lack of 'compromise'
- Mattis explains how the US would respond if North Korea launched a nuclear missile at America
- A tunnel collapsed at a North Korean nuclear test site, reportedly killing 200 people
- Heroin is driving a sinister trend in Afghanistan
- 2 Navy SEALs are 'persons of interest' after Green Beret strangled and killed in Mali
Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter .
SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite
SpaceX is launching a secretive mission this month. The mission, shrouded in secrecy, has some considering it may be for the CIA or the NSA.
This is how the Air Force will use prop planes on high-tech battlefields
The Air Force is looking toward a light-attack aircraft program, known as OA-X, to produce a plane that meets its needs and gets the job done.
A retired SEAL commander on how to stop thinking and 'get after it' every day
This former Navy commander has some excellent advice on how to jump start your day, and "get some" in order to make it as productive as possible.
Marines return to battle in 'old stomping grounds'
The Marines recall their "old stomping grounds" as they return to Fallujah and the surround areas of Al Anbar Province to battle a new enemy.
How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market
China has stepped up it's drone game, and even though United States technology can still compete, China's drones are kind of really in demand.
That time two countries' Special Forces squared off in combat
In an area the size of the Falkland Islands, British and Argentine special operators were bound to run into each other at some point – a lot.
5 times pilots got in trouble for having fun in the sky
When pilots decide to do some fancy flying in their high-performance fighters, it can land them in trouble once they're back on the ground.
This is why Nazis dubbed these paratroopers 'devils in baggy pants'
"American paratroopers – devils in baggy pants – are less than 100 meters from my outpost line. I can’t sleep at night," wrote one German commander.
9 ISIS weapon fails that you have to see to believe
Many bad guys just want record themselves laying rounds down range for social media purposes — and we're glad they did. Laugh away, America!