What Can North Korea Hit

Background Information

North Korea, officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), is a country in East Asia and the northernmost nation on the Korean Peninsula. Its capital, Pyongyang, is home to a population of over 25 million people, representing its economic and political power. Over the years, North Korea has developed its military capacity to acquire its desired level of deterrence against its neighbors, with an estimated army size of 1.2 million soldiers and upwards of 10,000 artillery pieces. While nuclear weapons are a key part of North Korea’s military strategy, it is also capable of striking targets beyond its borders with conventional weapons, including ballistic missiles and multi-barrel rocket launchers.

Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles

North Korea has long possessed some of the most advanced intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in the world. Its arsenal includes the Hwasong-14 and -15, both of which can reach targets thousands of kilometers away. The Hwasong-12 and -14 are believed to have reached altitudes of up to 4,000 km above the Earth’s surface, enough to reach targets in the continental United States. North Korea is also capable of firing short-range ballistic missiles such as the Pukguksong-2, a land-mobile, solid-fuel ballistic missile with a range of up to 2,000 km.

Multi-Barrel Rocket Launchers

North Korea has also invested heavily in its ability to fire conventional weapons. It boasts three prominent multi-barrel rocket launchers in its arsenal: the 240 mm M-1989, the 300 mm No-Dong and the 500 mm KN-09. These can fire up to 15 rockets in a single salvo and are capable of striking targets up to 150 km away. As well as long-range artillery pieces, the North Korean military also has shorter-range Katyushas and BM-21s. The former can strike targets up to 20 km away while the latter has a range of up to 60 km.

Perspectives From Experts

Experts have raised questions about North Korea’s ability to strike targets beyond its borders. While its intercontinental ballistic missiles may have the potential to reach the US mainland, North Korea has yet to demonstrate that it has the necessary technology to accuracy target such distances and payloads. Some experts have noted that North Korea may still be some years away from a fully operational nuclear weapon system.
Nevertheless, North Korea has invested heavily in conventional weaponry and has already demonstrated its ability to hit targets far beyond its own borders. Its multi-barrel rocket launchers, including the No-Dong, KN-09 and M-1989, have the potential to potentially wreak havoc upon its enemies. Its shorter-range artillery pieces such as the Katyushas and BM-21s can hit targets in South Korea and Japan.


North Korea’s military capacity, particularly its ability to strike targets beyond its own borders, has been the source of much discussion in recent years. While its nuclear weapons remain untested, its conventional weapons have been employed in the past and are capable of reaching enemy territory.
Given its investment in multi-barrel rocket launchers and short-range artillery pieces, North Korea is capable of causing a high degree of damage to its enemies. Its development of ICBMs could also potentially pose a threat to nearby countries, including the United States.
Although the accuracy and readiness of North Korea’s ICBMs remain in doubt, it is still wise to take precautions against any potential attack, given the volatility and unpredictability of Kim Jong-Un’s regime.

Economic Effects

The militarization of the Korean peninsula has had a significant effect on the economic landscape of both North and South Korea. South Korea has experienced considerable economic growth in the past decade, with a number of international companies establishing their presence in the country. However, the continued political instability of North Korea and the threat of conflict has hindered potential foreign investment and casts doubt over the potential for economic cooperation between the two countries.
North Korea has also struggled economically, owing to the heavy burden of its military spending. This has severely limited its ability to develop and modernize its economy as well as damaging its international standing, given its reluctance to comply with international Sanctions.

International Response

The international community has taken a number of measures to curb North Korea’s weapons capability. The United Nations has imposed a number of economic Sanctions on the country in an attempt to curb its military spending. The US also has troops stationed in South Korea, intended as a deterrent against a North Korean attack. The US also station troops in Japan and South Korea as part of a wider regional defensive strategy.
In addition to these efforts, the US and South Korea have also engaged in glimmers of diplomatic dialogue with the North. In 2018, the two countries held a historic summit between the two heads of state, Kim Jong-Un and Moon Jae-in, amid hopes of increased cooperation.

Trade Relations

The trading relationship between North Korea and its neighbors has long been an area of tension. North Korea has often used its trading relations with foreign countries as a means of furthering its own agenda. Its trade with China has played a key role in the country’s economy and is believed to have helped fund its weapons program.
At present, North Korea is largely isolated from the international trading community, with few foreign companies willing to do business with the country. The US also maintains its own economic embargo on the country which has had a considerable effect on its trading relations.

Cultural Ties

The delicate relationship between North Korea and its neighbors has often been complicated by cultural issues. North Korea’s embrace of a strongly authoritarian form of government is at odds with its neighbors’ open and democratic systems. This has caused tension between the two countries, particularly in regards to human rights issues. While North Korea is doing its best to cultivate ties with its neighbors, it still remains largely isolated from the international community.
The biggest concession North Korea has made to its neighbors is its willingness to open up to cultural exchange. In recent years, the country has focused much of its efforts on strengthening ties with both South Korea and Japan. This has seen a number of sports tournaments, art exhibitions and other cultural events being held in the country in an attempt to increase understanding between the two nations.

Educational Exchange

In recent years, North Korea has also engaged in education exchange with its neighbors. It is believed that the country is attempting to improve its understanding of the international community by introducing its students to foreign universities and other institutions.
North Korean students have been allowed to study abroad in countries such as China, Russia, and even South Korea. While these opportunities are few and far between, they have shown a degree of openness on the part of the North Korean government to engage with the outside world.

Technology Exchange

North Korea’s technological capabilities have become increasingly advanced over the past couple of decades. This is largely thanks to technological exchanges and investments from foreign countries. The North Korean government has engaged in a number of technology exchanges with countries such as Russia, China and South Korea.
These exchanges have allowed North Korea to access some of the most advanced technologies in the world. It is believed that North Korea has acquired a number of foreign technologies, including military technology, as part of these exchanges.


North Korea’s arsenal of weapons is formidable and its ability to strike targets beyond its borders is a genuine threat. Its investment in long-range and short-range weaponry gives it the capacity to cause considerable damage to its enemies. Its intercontinental ballistic missiles represent a particular threat to neighboring countries, although its accuracy and readiness still remain in doubt.
The international community has taken measures to curb North Korea’s military expansion and there have been some signs of progress in the form of diplomatic relations and cultural exchange. However, North Korea remains a hostile and mysterious nation and as such, a potential threat to its neighbors.

Cassie Grissom is an American journalist and author living in Seoul, South Korea. She has been studying the Korean peninsula since 2011, and her work focuses on understanding human rights issues in North Korea. In addition to her work as an author, Cassie is an active advocate for human rights in North Korea. She regularly shares stories about life in North Korea with international audiences to raise awareness of the plight of its citizens.

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