North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles, crossing a key threshold on the path to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power, U.S. intelligence officials have concluded in a confidential assessment.

The Defense Intelligence Agency analysis estimates that North Korea has up to 60 nuclear weapons. Some independent experts think the number is much smaller.

Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, USA (Ret.) is a Distinguished Practitioner in Residence, and Dr. Nora Bensahel is a Distinguished Scholar in Residence, at the School of International Service at American University have an analysis that the only effective military option would be a nuclear first strike. They argue that this would work militarily but would have other devastating consequences.

A surprise nuclear first strike, however, carries far fewer military risks. It would require only a modest increase in the number of ships, airplanes, and nuclear munitions in the region, which could all be shifted into forward bases with little attention. U.S. military planners would likely utilize lower-yield nuclear weapons — but they would still have to use significant numbers of them. A successful U.S. first strike would have to destroy every suspected North Korea nuclear storage site, launch pad, and other facilities, as well as chemical stockpiles to remove the possibility of a retaliatory second strike. Only a nuclear strike could accomplish these objectives. Civilian and military command and control nodes, government centers, and conventional forces located across the country would also have to be quickly eliminated. Such a sudden overpowering and devastating attack would be the only viable way for the United States to remove North Korea’s military and nuclear threat in one swift blow.

* many north korean deaths
* regional radiation issues
* worldwide economic impact
* decades of political issues