With the North Korean “problem” front in center for the Trump administration, especially after Sunday’s failed ballistic missile launch prompting Trump’s top security advisor, Lt. Gen HR McMaster to “work with China on a range of options” to respond to the North Korean provocation, here are several charts and infographics summarizing North Korea’s conventional and nuclear potential, as well as its short and long-range military options.
In terms of most immediate short-range threats, North Korean conventional artillery by the border can penetrate somewhat into South Korea, with the biggest zone of impact stretching approximately 10 miles in. That said, according to Stratfor even areas such as the capital Seoul would be within range of some of the heavier North Korean tube and rocket artillery.
As the next chart demonstrates, under the Kim regime North Korea has conducted more ballistic missile launches than during the regimes of Kim John Un’s two predecessors combined.
As Bloomberg notes, the regime of Kim Jong Un – which has accelerated the country’s nuclear program since taking power in 2011 – is said to possess rockets that can hit South Korea and Japan with as many as 20 atomic bombs, and it’s now focused on building a long-range missile capable of hitting Washington, D.C., with a nuclear warhead.
The following Reuters chart summarizes what is known about NK’s current missile arsenal:
The next image details the maximum estimated range of any given ballistic delivery system. While there are disagreements on how far North Korea’s most advanced missiles, the Taepodong-2 and KN-14 can reach, they are widely assumed to be able to reach most parts of the US. That said, Bloomberg cites analysts who say the Taepdong-2 has been used only for launching satellites into orbit and probably wouldn’t be suitable to deliver nuclear warheads.
As Bloomberg also observes, more worrisome than the Taepodong-2 is the yet-to-be tested KN-08, a road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile. Its range of about 11,500 kilometers (7,100 miles) which would threaten a host of major U.S. cities. At the beginning of the year, Kim said that North Korea was in the “last stage” of preparing to test-fire an ICBM—prompting U.S. President Donald Trump to tweet: “It won’t happen!”
Furthermore, during yesterday’s “Day of the sun” parade, North Korea revealed a new ICBM which according to South Korean military officials was longer than the existing KN-08 or KN-14 ICBMs, and may thus be the longest-ranged weapon in Kim’s arsenal, if indeed it is operational.
Finally, another potential threat is North Korea’s ability to deliver nukes to the Pacific seaboard via submarine. While the subs are diesel powered, and could be destroyed as soon as they left port – something US submarines are surely acutely aware of – they could target the US if they managed to get in close enough.