Publication: Asia-Pacific Regional Security Assessment 2017
02 June 2017
The troubling situation on the Korean Peninsula became more intractable in 2016 and early 2017. Despite sanctions and vocal international condemnation, ‘Supreme Leader’ Kim Jong-un’s regime has continued to improve the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK’s) ability to develop both nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile technology. North Korea has arguably achieved the status of a de facto nuclear-weapons state. At any rate, owing to the scale and success of the regime’s testing, the threat is now taken much more seriously than previously.
A shortage of open-source information combined with the regime’s carefully controlled nationalistic rhetoric make accurate assessments of North Korea’s capabilities difficult, but the sheer number of tests and public demonstrations of new systems signify important developments. Between March 2016 and 16 April 2017, there were an unprecedented 32 missile tests, in addition to nuclear tests in January and September 2016, and a satellite launch in February 2016. New ballistic missiles, designed for regional use, have caused particular alarm, as have tests of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).