Last month, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) sought to authenticate North Korea’s status as a nuclear weapon state by citing a recent assessment by Robert Norris and Hans Kristensen. KCNA reported that “the Federation of American Scientists of the United States has confirmed (North) Korea as a nuclear weapon state.” However, KCNA’s report was an oversimplification of the Norris-Kristensen assessment. Yesterday, the South Korean Yonhap News Agency disseminated Kristensen’s rebuttal to the KCNA report, though over a week after it had been made. Better late than never…
Norris and Kristensen did list North Korea as a state that possesses nuclear weapons. On the FAS Strategic Security Blog, Kristensen wrote: “It’s certainly curious that they would need our reaffirmation, but after two nuclear tests we feel it is safe to call North Korea a nuclear weapon state.” However, Kristensen added that KCNA omitted a “huge caveat.” The original assessment reads:
We are not aware of credible information on how North Korea has weaponized its nuclear weapons capability, much less where those weapons are stored. We also take note that a recent U.S. Air Force intelligence report did not list any of North Korea’s ballistic missiles as nuclear-capable.
Concluding his rebuttal to the abridged analysis by Pyongyang’s media monopoly, Kristensen wrote:
In other words, two experimental nuclear test explosions don’t make a nuclear arsenal. That requires deliverable nuclear weapons, which we haven’t seen any signs of yet.
A rebuttal to Kristensen’s rebuttal, in the form of a new KCNA report, is unlikely. Hopefully, a flying missile rebuttal will not come too soon either.