North Korea is all set to launch a nuclear weapon test this week as a show of strength to US President Donald Trump, reports say. But how many nuclear weapons does Kim Jong-un have?
Satellite images of North Korea’s Punggye-ri site appear to show that the rogue state is primed and ready to launch a nuclear test.
US-based analysts 38 North say that the images show “continued activity around the North Portal, new activity in the Main Administrative Area, and a few personnel around the site’s Command Centre.”
Other reports claim that Kim Jong-un is planning to celebrate the 150th anniversary of former leader Kim II-sung’s birth by detonating a nuclear device. Earlier this week North Korea said that it would defend itself by “powerful force of arms” after the US Navy aircraft carrier was deployed into the sea of Japan.
Donald Trump has responded by a warning that an “armada” is heading towards the Korean peninsula as tensions continue to escalate.
How many nuclear weapons does North Korea have?
North Korea is extremely secretive about his nuclear weapons programme, which it has developed despite international criticism.
In June 2016, it was estimated that Pyongyang has increased with at least four to six warheads than it had it in 2014 and reached the number between 13 and 21.
The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said in a statement: “Since the end of 2014, or during the last 18 months, North Korea has added an estimated 4-6 nuclear weapons to this value, based on additional production of separated plutonium and weapons-grade uranium at Yongbyon, where any contribution of a second centrifuge plant is ignored.”
“Thus, as of June 2016, North Korea has about 13-21 nuclear weapons, where one weapon was subtracted to reflect the underground test in early 2016,” it said.
The Federation of American Scientists has estimated that North Korea has enough fissile material to produce 10-20 nuclear warheads.
Could North Korea launch a missile?
Kim Jong-un has claimed that North Korea has the ballistic technology needed to target the west with nuclear warheads. After a missile test in August 2016, Kim claimed that the US and its operational theatre in the Pacific are now within his striking range.
Following the September 2016 nuclear test, North Korean state media warned that this is now able to mount a warhead on a missile.
A statement said: “The standardisation of the nuclear warhead will enable (North Korea) to produce at will and as many as it wants a variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power with a firm hold on the production of various fissile materials and technology for their use.”
“This has definitely put on a higher level [the North’s] technology of mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic rockets.”
Experts believe that North Korea will be capable of striking the US within the next four years.
“We believe, and American intelligence estimates say this, that the North Koreans could have such a weapon within the next four years,” said Dennis Wilder, former special assistant to George W Bush.