2.1 The Issue
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, also known as North Korea, has been pursuing nuclear weapons for decades, to the dismay of Western countries and its neighbors in East Asia. Some U.S. military officials now believe that North Korea has the capability to strike the continental United States with a nuclear weapon, although tests have not proved such capability yet. In September 2017, North Korea conducted its most powerful nuclear test and declared that the country had perfected its nuclear warhead design, hinting at the ability to launch a nuclear weapon on a missile. Whether North Korea has the ability to accurately deliver a nuclear weapon to the continental United States is unconfirmed, but most analysts agree that North Korea has a reliable nuclear weapons capability to strike Japan and South Korea.
The United States, alongside other countries and the United Nations, has used sanctions and diplomacy to try to convince North Korea’s leadership to change direction and denuclearize. Despite these efforts, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, believes his country should be a nuclear weapons state and continues to pursue the ability to strike the United States with a nuclear weapon. He is also determined to deter any initial conventional or nuclear attack by the United States by building a nuclear arsenal that could survive such a strike. Analysts believe that if Kim Jong-un gains these capabilities, dealing with the North Korean threat will become much more difficult for both the United States and other countries.