Today, for the first time in history, the leaders of North Korea and the USA met with a handshake. They both agreed to denuclearise the Korean peninsula.

But for me this seems ridiculous. I suspect North Korea is confident enough to engage in peace talks because they are closer than they've ever been to a viable nuclear deterrent, which would prevent an American invasion and thus secure their survival... certainly a reason for Pyongyang to be happy for once.

But is this correct?

Does North Korea have a viable nuclear deterrent? If not, how close are they? Are we really to believe North Korea wants a denuclearised Korean peninsula?

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    "Deterrent" to whom? Apart from the lack of knowledge about NK's nuclear capabilities, the concept of "deterrence" depends of what is at the stake (you do not need the same "deterrent" if you just mind your business than if you are actively threatening something). politics.stackexchange.com/questions/30767/…
    – SJuan76
    Jun 12, 2018 at 9:12
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    E.g. if you believe that nobody wants to harm NK or its regime, then the minimum "viable nuclear deterrent" is zero nuclear weapons. But if some country is willing to risk the destruction of its ten main cities in order to conquer NK, then the "viable nuclear deterrent" is at least eleven bombs and delivery systems.
    – SJuan76
    Jun 12, 2018 at 9:18
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    I don't think it's reasonable to expect America would trade Seoul, Tokyo, or their military bases in East Asia for Pyongyang. And America definitely isn't going to trade San Francisco or Los Angeles for Pyongyang. You'd have to answer with some convincing evidence or logic to suggest otherwise. North Korea doesn't need much.
    – user8398
    Jun 12, 2018 at 9:38
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    If you think that Seoul would be an unacceptable loss, and you know that NK already has some nuclear weaponry (hint: they blasted a few of them) and that Seoul is just next to NK, I think you have already answered the question. Even before the development of nuclear weapons the fact that Seoul was in range of NK's conventional artillery and that NK threatened to attack it in the case of war was a widely known fact.
    – SJuan76
    Jun 12, 2018 at 9:53
  • @SJuan76 That might presume the issue was simply delivery, and testing missiles at long range is simply a way to test them to destruction, when the target is likely much closer as that's the most cost effective bargaining chip. But that's just my suspicion, which is why I'd like an answer with evidence either way.
    – user8398
    Jun 12, 2018 at 10:31

1 Answer 1


North Korea already has a nuclear deterrent, depending on what we would consider an acceptable loss. North Korea has already tested multiple nuclear weapons and is nearby Seoul, a city that US planners may consider an unacceptable loss. They've tested enough missiles for us to be fairly sure they could hit Japan with a nuclear weapon. Furthermore, the US's THAAD anti-missile system installed in South Korea doesn't cover Seoul, and there are questions of its performance in a large scale conflict.

However leaving the nuclear question aside, North Korea has plenty of military deterrent in the form of conventional and chemical weapons. North Korea has one of the largest Chemical Weapon arsenals in the world, and could inflict mass casualties with it. US military planners expect any invasion of North Korea would cost millions of lives.

In short, North Korea has a de facto deterrent, but the US could invade if it were willing to sacrifice millions of soldiers and South Korean Civilians.