The DEFCON Warning System™

Ongoing GeoIntel and Analysis in the theater of nuclear war.  DEFCON Level assessment issued for public notification.  Established 1984.

North Korea’s Message to the World: Hundreds of Nuclear Weapons, Coming Soon

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been giving the world a rare glimpse of his secretive country’s growing missile capabilities. Over the weekend, Kim made his second publicized tour of missile and rocket factories in less than a month and ordered his defense industry to “drastically boost” missile production. The images from the visits, in which Kim was shown touring factory floors and talking to workers, showed off North Korea’s short-range missile and long-range artillery–the type of systems that would be used in a potential war with South Korea.

Jeffrey Lewis, expert on nuclear nonproliferation at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said it was clear that Kim and his country are emphasizing the production of what are commonly called tactical nuclear weapons, smaller and shorter-range nukes designed for battlefield use. He described the tours as a “victory lap” for North Korea’s defense industry, showing that years of isolation and sanctions haven’t prevented the country from building up a formidable arsenal.

“What they’re telling us is that this isn’t going to be a nuclear force of ten nuclear weapons,” Lewis said. “This is going to be a nuclear force of hundreds of nuclear weapons. Where they’re going to get the material for the warheads, I don’t know, but they are building a lot of launchers and a lot of missiles.”

Rachel Minyoung Lee, a former U.S. government intelligence analyst who is now a nonresident fellow at the Stimson Center, told The Messenger that Kim’s factory tours “reflect the North’s shift to an even harder-line foreign policy.”

North Korea conducted a record number of missile tests in 2022, and has continued at a steady clip this year, including a recent ICBM test timed to coincide with a meeting between the leaders of South Korea and Japan.

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Ongoing Geointel and Analysis in the theater of nuclear war.


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The DEFCON Warning System is a private intelligence organization which has monitored and assessed nuclear threats by national entities since 1984. It is not affiliated with any government agency and does not represent the alert status of any military branch. The public should make their own evaluations and not rely on the DEFCON Warning System for any strategic planning. At all times, citizens are urged to learn what steps to take in the event of a nuclear attack.