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North Korea Might Have Up to 50 Nuclear Weapons: Report

Hwasong-16 ICBM
What appears to be a new Hwasong-16 ICBM.

North Korea may have as many as 50 nuclear weapons, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a Swedish think tank.

North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: A Growing Threat 

In its recently released annual report on armaments, disarmament, and international security, SIPRI finds that North Korea has continued to develop its nuclear arsenal even as the country has refrained from conducting further nuclear or long-range missile testing. According to the report, North Korea is now believed to be in possession of between 40 and 50 nuclear weapons, an increase from last year’s estimate of 30 to 40 weapons.

SIPRI has based its estimates of North Korea’s nuclear inventory on the number of weapons that the DPRK could build with the fissile material that it has available to it. The report also notes that there is no available evidence suggesting that North Korea has produced a nuclear weapon for use on an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), though North Korea may have smaller warheads for use on medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) available.

SIPRI cautions that its estimates of North Korea’s nuclear weapons are “highly uncertain,” and does not include the country’s warheads in the report’s larger tally of global nuclear weapons.

Other experts have recently weighed in on the size of North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal with Dr. Siegfried Hecker – a noted nuclear weapons expert with extensive experience studying North Korea’s nuclear weapons program – estimating that the DPRK has somewhere between 20 and 60 nuclear weapons, with the most likely number being around 45. Like the SIPRI report, Dr. Hecker’s estimate is based on the number of weapons that North Korea could produce with its current stockpile of fissile material, as opposed to an estimate of the number of warheads that North Korea currently possesses.

Just How Serious? 

Evidence of North Korea’s continued development of its nuclear weapons capabilities has emerged in recent weeks, with International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi recently reporting that there have been indications of activity at the Kangson site, which analysts have previously suggested could a uranium enrichment site – though more recent analysis has instead found that Kangson is not a uranium enrichment site, but instead a site dedicated to supporting North Korea’s nuclear program in other ways, including the production of centrifuges.

Other signs of potential North Korea nuclear activity have been observed at the country’s Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center, where steam emanating from the facilities Radiochemistry Laboratory visible through satellite imagery suggests that a reprocessing campaign may be underway.

With North Korea continuing to develop its nuclear weapons capabilities, some experts have projected that the DPRK could be in possession of as many as 151 to 242 nuclear weapons by 2027.

Written By

Eli Fuhrman is an Assistant Researcher in Korean Studies at the Center for the National Interest and a recent graduate of Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program, where he focusedd on East Asian security issues and U.S. foreign and defense policy in the region.



  1. Rambone

    June 17, 2021 at 8:12 am

    OK. Now can we ask how many IsNtReal has in stock or would that be an act of antisemitizzzm ?

  2. Double Standard

    June 17, 2021 at 7:51 pm

    Just asking but how many nuclear weapons does Israel have and why is this a taboo subject?

  3. wesley bruce

    June 17, 2021 at 8:46 pm

    If unification goes ahead then that’s a unified Korea with the weapons and fire power needed to face down Russia and China at its border. Was that always part of the plan between Kim, Moon and Trump? If Kim is not a detected communist but just a guy trying to stay alive while slowly changing his nation everything changes. Including what those previous nuclear facilities might be making. While Biden is president and leftists rule the south Korean parliament Kim may tread water.

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