A recent report suggests that North Korea may be able to secure up to 242 nuclear weapons and dozens of intercontinental ballistic missiles by 2027.
The Asan Institute for Policy Studies along with the RAND Corporation made the estimate in a joint report released Tuesday and called for measures to counter the North as the regime's nuclear weapons could pose a much greater threat in "much more coercive and diverse ways" to South Korea and the U.S., including the possibility of pre-emptive nuclear strikes.
The research team stresses that all possible options should be considered to deliver the message to the North Korean regime of its annihilation if it chooses to use nuclear weapons.
It also stresses that serious considerations should be given in deploying U.S. strategic nuclear weapons as well as mid-range nuclear missiles on the Korean Peninsula or regions nearby.
The report also suggests a strengthened role for the United Nations Command and a delay in the envisioned transfer of wartime operational control from Washington to Seoul which is against the wishes of the South Korean government working towards an early OPCON transition possibly by next year.
Unlike in conventional warfare, where forces on each side are well defined, the report says South Korea is not ready to take the principal role in confronting North Korea in the initial stage of a contingency.
The report did, however, note the need for caution in drawing conclusions on the North's inventory citing "vast uncertainties."
The report came amid signs of activity at the North's eastern coast shipyard of Sinpo indicating a submarine-launched ballistic missile test could be imminent a move considered as crossing Washington's so-called "red-line" along with ICBM launches.
Kim Ji-yeon, Arirang News.