North Korea has been testing missiles and touting its growing nuclear arsenal in recent weeks. As the country continues to develop and showcase its weapons capabilities, the question of how imminent the threat is remains.
The country has demonstrated that it has missiles that could fly far enough to reach deep into the continental U.S., South Korea and Japan. It has also performed six underground nuclear test explosions to manufacture warheads that it can place on missiles. North Korea has also showcased around a dozen ICBMS during a military parade this month, an unprecedented number, which suggests progress in its efforts to mass-produce powerful weapons.
However, many foreign experts call the North’s claims propaganda and suggest that the country is not yet capable of hitting the United States or its allies with a nuclear weapon. The question remains whether the country has mastered the tricky engineering required to join the bombs and the missiles, and whether they can survive re-entering the Earth's atmosphere on arrival. North Korea has also reportedly developed short-range, nuclear-capable missiles, including “super-large” 600-millimeter multiple rocket launchers and missiles modeled after the Russian Iskander mobile ballistic system. It is not yet clear whether these weapons are nuclear-capable.
Overall, the international community is still uncertain of the exact capabilities of the North Korean nuclear arsenal. Analysts suggest that the country may have between 20-60 nuclear warheads, but it is still unclear whether these warheads are small enough to fit on a missile and whether the country has mastered the technology to shield warheads from atmospheric reentry.
Whether North Korea has an ability to arm short-range missiles with nuclear warheads has not been independently confirmed. With the country continuing to test and showcase its nuclear capabilities, the international community is keenly watching to assess how immediate the threat is.