Pyongyang’s weapons program sparked angry words from President Trump this week.
In recent weeks, many Americans have had a rude awakening: North Korea has nuclear weapons. And worse still, it may soon be able to launch a missile containing one of those nuclear weapons that is capable of hitting the United States.
It’s a frightening situation, made worse by the fiery rhetoric coming out of both Washington and Pyongyang. On Wednesday, U.S. officials tried to quell those fears by saying Trump’s comments were spontaneous. North Korea called Trump’s comments a “load of nonsense” and said it plans to launch missiles aimed at the waters near the U.S. territory of Guam.
But the crisis over nuclear weapons didn’t come out of nowhere. Here’s what you need to know about North Korea’s long-standing quest to acquire nuclear weapons:
North Korea first tested a nuclear weapon in 2006, and it has conducted four tests since then. The most recent, in September, produced a blast that was twice as large as the one that destroyed Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945.
A recent U.S. intelligence estimate suggests that the country may have as many as 60 nuclear weapons, including some that are miniaturized — meaning it might be possible to fit them on a missile. North Korea has also been testing intercontinental ballistic missiles, including one that analysts think could theoretically reach the U.S. mainland.