Ten lessons from North Korea’s nuclear programme

Topic Selected: War and Conflict

General Article icon Type: General Article

By Richard N. Haass

North Korea has produced a number of nuclear warheads and is developing ballistic missiles capable of delivering them around the world. Many governments are debating how to prevent or slow further advances in North Korea’s capacity and what should be done if such efforts fail.

These are obviously important questions, but they are not the only ones. It also is important to understand how North Korea has succeeded in advancing its nuclear and missile programmes as far as it has, despite decades of international efforts. It may be too late to affect North Korea’s trajectory decisively; but it is not too late to learn from the experience. What follows are ten lessons that we ignore at our peril.

First, a government that possesses basic scientific know-how and modern manufacturing capability, and is determined to develop a number of rudimentary nuclear weapons, will most likely succeed, sooner or later. Much of the relevant informati

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