FILE - This file photo distributed by the North Korean government shows what was said to be the launch of a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, ICBM, in North Korea's northwest, Tuesday, July 4, 2017. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this photo. No need to duck and cover just yet. (AP)
WASHINGTON, August 18: U.S. assessments of the size of North Korea's nuclear arsenal vary wildly.
Some conclude North Korea has or can make 30 to 60 nuclear weapons.
Estimates by civilian experts cloud the picture. They guess North Korea has just a dozen to about 30 weapons.
Size matters and not knowing makes it harder to develop a policy for deterrence and for the U.S. to defend itself and allies in the region.
North Korea expert Bruce Bennett says if North Korea only has three, it won't use them early in a conflict. If they have 30-plus, he says they will consider using them at the beginning of a conflict.
The Arms Control Association's Kelsey Davenport says, however, that determining the exact size of the arsenal is far less urgent than de-escalating tensions.