North Korea Nuclear Readiness: Is The U.S. At Risk?

By Amir Khan on December 28, 2012 11:14 AM EST

Missile
North Korea may be close to a long-range nuclear missile that could hit the U.S. (Photo: Creative Commons)

North Korea is working towards nuclear weapons, and new fears over North Korea's nuclear readiness are surfacing in the wake of new satellite imagery. New photos show that North Korea has repaired flood damage at its nuclear reactor, and that the country could be close to a third nuclear test.

North Korea's nuclear readiness is a concern to the United Nations and the United States, as a third test could give them the ability to launch a long-range nuclear missile that could strike the United States, causing irreparable damage.

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"With an additional nuclear test, North Korea could advance their ability to eventually deploy a nuclear weapon on a long-range missile," Daryl Kimball, executive director of the nongovernment Arms Control Association, told the Associated Press.

However, experts caution that much information cannot be gleaned from satellite imagery, such as the country's intentions. In addition, nuclear test preparations are often done deep inside mountains, far away from where anyone can see.

"We don't have a crystal ball that will tell us when the North will conduct its third nuclear test," Joel Wit, a former U.S. State Department official, told the AP. "But events over the next few months, such as the U.N. reaction to Pyongyang's missile test and the North's unfolding policy toward the new South Korean government, may at least provide us with some clues."

North Korea's plutonium stockpile is sufficient for four to eight bombs, according to the AP, but may also test a uranium bomb. A uranium bomb test would worry the international community, as it would mean North Korea has fissionable material.

"Whether and when North Korea conducts another nuclear test will depend on how high a political cost Pyongyang is willing to bear," according to an August paper by Frank Pabian of Los Alamos and Siegfried Hecker of Stanford University.

You can see the satellite photos here.

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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