North Korea’s Nuclear Threats To U.S.: What Pyongyang Can And Can’t Do (Yet)

U.S. President Donald Trump and the pariah state of North Korea are locked in a war of words about nuclear capability. The spark for the (so-far) verbal fire was Pyongyang’s fresh claim that it is now able to hit the U.S. Pacific island of Guam with a nuclear strike. North Korea aspires to have the entire U.S. mainland within striking range. Here is what you need to know about the real bite of the North’s nuclear bark.

How Powerful Is a North Korean Warhead?

Tests involving nuclear explosions show progress regarding the power of the blast North Korea can cause. A 2006 explosion detonated a plutonium-fueled atomic bomb with a yield equivalent to 2 kilotons of TNT, data from D.C.-based think tank the Nuclear Threat Initiative shows. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima by the U.S. military in 1945 had an estimated yield of about 16 kilotons. North Korea’s latest tests have since surpassed that figure more than twofold.

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In 2009, a test increased this power four times from the 2006 blast to 8 kilotons; several tests later, a September 2016 blast yielded 35 kilotons. The ability to deliver this blast to the U.S. is the challenge North Korea faces now.

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