According to a report issued by the European Council of Foreign Relations, North Korea will likely target three locations if they launch a nuclear attack. Those locations are Manhattan, the White House, and the Pentagon, reported Newsweek.
The report also believes they would target “Major American cities," Guam, Hawaii, and U.S. military bases in the Pacific.
"North Korea lacks a clear distinction between the use of nuclear weapons against military targets and their use against civilian targets," the report states. In other words, the Communist government doesn’t follow the follow the laws of just war, and they will target civilian areas rather than just military areas.
North Korea has not released an official nuclear doctrine. To better understand the volatile nation, the Europe-based think tank reviewed material published by the country's state-run news outlets.
They looked at things published in the half-decade since Kim Jong Un came to power to gain more insight into his nuclear ambitions. The report aims to “predict Pyongyang’s response to different scenarios, and to avoid war, the international community needs to understand how the regime sees its nuclear weapons, and when it would use them."
The researchers who worked together on the report came to the conclusion that Kim will not consider denuclearization. They believe his nuclear philosophy is “driven by North Korea's technological inferiority,” said Newsweek.
"Without certainty that its arsenal could survive a first strike by its enemies, Pyongyang’s deterrence relies on the threat of launching the first strike itself," the report states.
In early September 2017, North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test. The rogue nation has staged 15 missile tests over the course of the year, which is a record number.
Opinions on how many nuclear weapons lay at Kim’s disposal vary. Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear expert and professor at Stanford University, told Newsweek his "best estimate as of September 2017 is [North Korea has] sufficient fissile materials (plutonium and highly enriched uranium) for 25 to 30 nuclear weapons." Less conservative estimates placed the number as high as 60.
In July, North Korea performed an especially concerning test. They launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) potentially capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.
“But the larger question is whether it has developed the technology that would allow an ICBM armed with a nuclear warhead to successfully reach its target over such a long distance,” asked Newsweek.
Hecker, among other experts, said he is skeptical about whether Pyongyang has actually acquired a weapon capable of surviving reentry into the atmosphere. According to Hecker, they are likely a few years away from developing that technology.
Kim Jong Un’s refusal to relinquish his nuclear aspirations has caused friction with President Trump. The two leaders have engaged in a war of words via Twitter.
In late September, President Trump warned Kim that he’d "totally destroy" North Korea if it forced the U.S. to defend itself or its allies—most notably Japan. Newsweek notes that during a trip to Asia in early November, President Trump took a softer tone. He offered Kim “a path to peace” if he agreed to stop long-range missile tests and to give up on his nuclear ambitions.
Pyongyang rejected the offered olive branch. They responded by stating nuclear weapons are vital to deterring "repressive U.S. imperialism."
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