North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is calling for expanded production of nuclear material to boost the country’s weapons arsenal. According to state media reports, his weapons program is aimed at defending the country. In a recent inspection, Kim inspected new tactical nuclear warheads called “Hwasan-31” for the first time, showing off ten red and green nuclear warheads alongside short-range ballistic missiles and long-range cruise missiles in a state media-circulated picture. What else did Kim say about the expanded production and what do military experts think about the warheads?
Expanding Production of Nuclear Weapons
Kim called for his nuclear scientists to step up production of the weapons-grade fissile material used to make nuclear bombs. North Korea had increased its stockpile of plutonium to 154 pounds in 2022, adding 44 pounds from 2020, as reported in South Korea’s Defense Ministry white paper last year. Experts believe that expanding plutonium stock could help North Korea create more nuclear warheads, which is going to be particularly concerning for the global community.
What Do the Warheads Show?
North Korea displayed the Hwasan-31 warheads alongside missiles to show that they could potentially be fitted onto a variety of missiles. Military expert Yang Uk of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul believes that the mock-up Hwasan-31s “are the last step in proving it can deploy nuclear-capable missiles.” However, it is still too early to know what the warheads can do, as North Korea has yet to conduct a nuclear test to gauge the explosive power of its weapons, which would usually come after showcasing new nuclear warheads.
North Korea’s Recent Weapons Testing
North Korea has ramped up its weapons testing in recent weeks, conducting short-range ballistic missile tests and revealing new underwater drones that it claimed could conduct nuclear attacks. State media says that Monday’s short-range missile launches were part of a drill simulating tactical nuclear attacks, using mock nuclear warheads that detonated in the air. The country also claimed that its underwater drone detonated a mock warhead last week, threatening to make a “radioactive tsunami.” While it is still in the early development stages, according to Seoul’s military, North Korea uses such claims to show domestic support for its nuclear and missile program.
Implications of North Korean Weapons Testing
North Korea’s recent display of its nuclear arsenal comes amid joint U.S.-South Korean military drills, with Pyongyang condemning the two countries’ joint efforts as a threat to peace in the region. Meanwhile, the USS Nimitz, a nuclear-powered American aircraft carrier, arrived in South Korea’s port of Busan on Tuesday. The U.S. and South Korea are conducting amphibious landing exercises until April 3, as reported by several global sources. North Korea’s nuclear ambitions are likely to cause political tension worldwide, given that the country is the only one to conduct six nuclear tests since 2006.