North Korean leader Kim Jong Un could be amassing a deadly nuclear arsenal that could reach 242 weapons and dozens of intercontinental ballistic missiles by 2027, according to a chilling report released Tuesday.
The Seoul-based Asan Institute for Policy Studies and the Rand Corp. in Santa Monica, California, warned that negotiations alone are unlikely to be effective in reducing the threat — and instead called for measures such as deploying tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea, UPI reported.
The think-tanks’ joint report — titled “Countering the Risks of North Korean Nuclear Weapons” — estimates that the rogue regime had developed between 67 and 116 nuclear weapons by 2020, with a stockpile expected to grow by 12 to 18 weapons a year until 2027.
“Despite some ROK and US efforts to enhance defense and deterrence, there is a growing gap between the North Korean nuclear weapon threat and ROK and US capabilities to defeat it,” the report said, referring to the Republic of Korea, the official name of South Korea.
“Today, even a few of the likely dozens of North Korean nuclear weapons could cause millions of fatalities and serious casualties if detonated on ROK or US cities,” it added, according to UPI.
The Hermit Kingdom has not conducted any nuclear or long-range missile tests since 2017, but it launched a couple of short-range ballistic missiles last month in violation of UN sanctions.
In October, Pyongyang also showed off a new ICBM during a military parade.
Nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled since a summit with Kim and then-President Donald Trump held in Vietnam in 2019 failed to produce an agreement.
A report by the UN this month concluded that North Korea has continued to develop its nuclear and missile programs and has “increased its nuclear strike capability, as well as its ability to counter foreign missile defense systems while safeguarding itself with its own new air defense system,” the news service reported.
The Asan-Rand report warned that future negotiations are unlikely to lead to denuclearization by Pyongyang.
“Unfortunately, the major ROK and US strategy to moderate the growing North Korean nuclear weapon threat has been negotiating with North Korea to achieve denuclearization, and this effort has failed and seems likely to continue failing,” the report said.
The authors argued that the US and South Korea “must consider putting all options on the table” in confronting the threat, focusing on deterrence and defense but signaling a willingness to destroy Kim’s regime if he uses nukes.
Among the steps would be deploying tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea, as well as ramping intelligence collection and improving missile defense systems, the report said.
“The ROK and the United States must now turn their attention to deterring North Korean nuclear weapon attacks and being able to defeat such attacks if deterrence fails,” it said.
The authors added that the allies should be prepared “to fight and win a war on the Korean Peninsula under conditions of North Korean nuclear weapon use, and both countries must be prepared to implement the current U.S. policy of destroying the Kim regime if it uses nuclear weapons.”