North Korea is believed to have up to 60 nuclear warheads capable of threatening regional stability in East Asia, according to the latest estimate published Wednesday by the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS).
The INSS is the main research body of the U.S. National Defense University, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.
In its Strategic Assessment 2020 report, the INSS revealed that North Korea “is assumed to have between 15 and 60 nuclear warheads and approximately 650 ballistic missiles capable of threatening cities in South Korea, as well as in Japan and eastern China.”
“Through the development of weapons of mass destruction, use of chemical weapons, and aggressive posturing of its conventional forces, the DPRK threatens regional stability and global norms,” the report stated, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
“It has also tested intercontinental ballistic missiles that could be capable of striking the United States,” INSS added.
According to the report, a majority of North Korea’s estimated 1.2 million soldiers are “forward-deployed toward the Demilitarized Zone [DMZ] in an offensive posture,” where they pose a serious threat to neighbors South Korea and Japan.
The DMZ is a strip of land that runs across the Korean Peninsula serving as a buffer zone between the North and South. It was established under the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement that ceased all hostilities of the Korean War (1950-53), although the conflict is still technically ongoing today.
According to the INSS assessment, North Korea has recently engaged with Iran in the sale and transfer of military technology, which has helped advance Pyongyang’s ballistic missile programs.
“Currency counterfeiting and narcotics trafficking have helped the regime generate funds and offset the effects of sanctions,” the INSS said.
In an effort to denuclearize the hostile nation, world powers have imposed various economic sanctions on North Korea over the past several years. The sanctions have forced Pyongyang to look for alternative or illegal sources for funds.
North Korea has put an annual estimate of $1.25 million to $250 million of counterfeit U.S. currency into circulation according to the report, which added that there is “a high degree of uncertainty regarding the value of this activity.”
According to the INSS, North Korea operates “more as a quasi-criminal enterprise than a legitimate nation-state.”
Pyongyang showcased a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on October 10 which it said was capable of striking any part of the continental U.S. The Korean People’s Army debuted the ICBM during a military parade marking the 75th founding anniversary of North Korea’s Workers’ Party.