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Putin’s Bombshell: North Korea Declared as ‘Nuclear Power,’ What’s Next?

Putin Claims North Korea Has Its Own ‘Nuclear Umbrella’
North Korea Desperate for ‘Nuclear Power’ Title
Russia Strategically Assisting North Korea

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Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that North Korea “has its nuclear umbrella.” This could mean that Russia is planning on ignoring the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, also known as the NPT, and acknowledging North Korea as a nuclear-armed state.

If South Korea-Russia relationships continue to deteriorate, Putin may take steps to formalize this acknowledgment. Reuters reported Wednesday that Putin, in an interview with Russia’s RIA state news agency and Rossiya-1 state television, stated, “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has its nuclear umbrella.”

A nuclear expert on this matter said, “Putin’s recent statement seems to be shifting towards recognizing North Korea as a nuclear-armed state,” and explained, “This seems to be the first strategic step to shake up South Korea with such a statement.” He also expressed concern that “Putin may officially visit North Korea and acknowledge North Korea as a nuclear-armed state in 2024, and it is possible to take measures to cooperate with DPRK on nuclear matters.”

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North Korea is technologically considered to have nuclear weapons capability. However, being acknowledged internationally as a nuclear-armed state is a different problem.

According to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), only five countries—the US, Russia, the UK, France, and China—have nuclear powers. Apart from the Treaty, India, Pakistan, and Israel have been recognized as nuclear powers due to political reasons.

India, Pakistan, and Israel have gained the status of “de facto nuclear powers” by independently developing nuclear weapons after going against the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It is anticipated that North Korea will also try to follow in its footsteps by continuously researching and developing nuclear weapons.

According to a report titled North Korea’s Pursuit of Being Recognized as a Nuclear-armed State, which was recently released by Senior Research Fellow Kim Sung-bae of the Institute for National Security Strategy, India and Pakistan obtained relief from sanctions and secured the status of nuclear powers through comprehensive negotiations and cooperation with the United States after conducting nuclear tests.

Also, Israel secured the status of a nuclear power politically through a secret agreement with the United States and avoided sanctions. For an extended period, North Korea has also been making efforts to acquire the status of a nuclear power through active negotiations with the United States after conducting nuclear tests. However, the North-U.S. summit, scheduled to be held in Hanoi in 2019, collapsed, leading to the failure of such plans.

However, there are predictions that things could go as North Korea wishes if Trump regains power in the United States. However, the nuclear issue can pose a major threat to the world. Since North Korea is a ceasefire country, it won’t be easy to obtain the title of a political nuclear power recognition state.

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North Korea is evaluated as the ninth country in the international community to possess nuclear weapons. Still, major countries such as the United States do not recognize North Korea’s status as a “nuclear power state.”

Also, the number of nuclear warheads that North Korea can assemble and manufacture is increasing day by day. As of 2023, the number of nuclear warheads in 2024 is estimated to be between 50 and 70, up from 45 to 55. In addition, the Korean Ministry of Defense and the Asan Institute for Policy Studies reported that “North Korea may possess more than 100 nuclear warheads.” They also stated, “North Korea may have a large amount of nuclear material made from plutonium and highly enriched uranium.”

North Korea also possesses an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can threaten the U.S. mainland, and it is evaluated to have reached considerable levels in the nuclear field. Moreover, ongoing developments in submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) technology pose a grave security concern for South Korea and the international community at large.

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So why is Putin helping North Korea?

Putin has been at war with Ukraine since 2022. At the beginning of the war, Russia was expected to overpower Ukraine with its formidable military swiftly might. However, Ukraine’s ongoing resistance, bolstered by Western support, has prolonged the conflict, leaving Russia increasingly isolated on the global stage, especially with South Korea aligning against it.

If Putin supports Kim Jong Un and North Korea gains the status of a “nuclear power state,” Russia and North Korea are expected to cooperate in actual nuclear research and development.

The fact that Russia, which is at war, and North Korea, which is in a ceasefire, possess “nuclear” weapons and conduct in-depth research can pose a direct threat to the security of the world. Although it seems complicated for North Korea to quickly obtain the title of a nuclear power, given these circumstances, the aggressive attitude of Russia cannot be reassuring.

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