Our Vision

Building an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and civil society flourish.


BannerWingLeft Become a Member Today BannerWingRight


North Koreas Advancing Nuclear Weapon Technology

North Koreas Nuclear Advances

By all appearances, North Koreas Kim Jong-il is a dictator in a hurry. No sooner did North Korea detonate a nuclear device underground during Memorial Day weekend than it began to get ready above ground to test-launch another long-range missile. The rapid pace of North Korea’s provocations since January indicates that it has abandoned the facade of negotiations and is no longer interested in diplomacy. Instead, North Korea seems intent on achieving a viable nuclear weapon and the capability of delivering it via an inter-continental ballistic missile.

Rather than incrementally raising the ante as in the past, Kim Jong-il is now willing to risk a high-stakes poker move by “going all in” to force international acceptance of North Korea as a nuclear power. They have threatened to restart their weapons grade nuclear plant to develop more nuclear weapons as well as threatening military strikes against South Korea and Japan. Indeed, North Koreas Taepodong-2 missile has gotten halfway toward a top range of 6000 miles, and it recently detonated a nuclear device perhaps one-fourth as powerful as the 15-kilo-ton bomb that devastated Hiroshima, Japan.

The Effect of a Nuclear Weapon

Seattle is 4,700 miles from Pyongyang, well within the range of North Koreas missile, and a 10-kilo-ton blast over Seattle would kill nearly 80,000 and debilitate another 42,000 within 48 hours.

A ballistic missile can reach and obliterate a U.S. city from anywhere in the world in just 33 minutes. And North Korea has both nuclear arms, and missile capability. Marrying the two would be a major threat to the United States and its allies.

Americas Need for Missile Defense

The inability of the United Nations and international diplomatic pressure to prevent North Korea from continuing to develop nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them shows the need for America to be able to defend itself against such a threat. Pyongyangs activities underscore the critical need for America to develop and deploy a missile defense system, Bruce Klingner, a Heritage analyst and former CIA official, notes in outlining concrete steps the U.S. should take to counter Kim.

Twenty six years ago during the Cold War, Ronald Reagan outlined to the nation his vision of a Strategic Defense Initiative that would protect America from incoming missiles before they exploded in U.S. cities. Since that time, a missile defense system has been established, and the United States has performed 35 successful tests on our existing system. But the system is by no means complete. More bases are needed, and sufficient funds have to be allocated to the existing system for proper upkeep. Congress is considering cuts in the missile defense program as we speak. It is critical Americans understand the stakes.

Check out the movie trailer for Heritages new documentary on missile defense called 33 Minutes: Protecting America in the New Missile Age. Please help us spread the message and educate the American public by signing up to host a screening of 33 Minutes in your area and pass on Heritages Questions and Answers document on missile defense to your friends and family.

Other Questions