North Korea Doesn’t Have Nukes

Denis Pombriant
9 min readApr 8, 2021

It’s been playing a shell game for decades. Although we don’t have definitive proof, running a few numbers and observing what real nuclear powers had to do to get nukes makes us suspicious. The world’s last feudal nation doesn’t have the brainpower or the cash that other members of the nuclear club had so we’re skeptical that NK really has the goods.

North Korea says it can launch nukes. Can it?

North Korea, the Hermit Kingdom, the most reclusive and suppressive country on earth has kept the world hostage for decades by threatening attacks against its neighbors, notably South Korea if any nation attempts to interfere with it. The threats have credibility for the most part given it has a million men under arms and could invade the south at a moment’s notice.

Lately, the North has been rattling a different sabre in a well-choreographed display of rocketry and nuclear muscle. They’ve launched rockets with ranges that could reach neighboring US allies and even North America. At the same time they’ve detonated nuclear material deep underground as most nuclear powers have done from time to time.

But questions linger about whether all of this data adds up to a weapon. A weapon isn’t a bomb alone. It’s a bomb in a casing that can survive reentry into the atmosphere (a warhead) sitting atop a rocket with the power to send the whole kit thousands of miles with reasonable accuracy to reach a target.

Prudent skeptics of the North’s nuclear program might question if the North has the ability to put all of its pieces together. At the same time though, guessing wrong could be catastrophic for the North and its enemies. But as a private citizen armed with what I can freely collect on the Internet I am going to speculate.

Game it out

To understand why North Korea wants us to believe they have nuclear

weapons, first turn to game theory. A country such as the United States that really has nuclear weapons is a mortal threat to the world simply because it could, at least in theory, obliterate any other country. The US has traditionally maintained a no first use policy against non-nuclear nations and reiterated this position as recently as 2018.

The only defense, aside from believing US assertions that it would not use its nukes first, is to have nukes…



Denis Pombriant

Researcher, author of multiple books including “The Age of Sustainability” about solutions for climate change. Technology, business, economics.