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What We Really Know About North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons

And What We Don’t Yet Know for Sure

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches the launch of a Hwasong-12 missile in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) released in September 2017. REUTERS

In January 2004, the director of North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center handed me a sealed glass jar with plutonium metal inside in an effort to convince me that his country had a nuclear deterrent. To make the same point last week, Pyongyang lofted a missile 2,800 miles into space and declared it had a nuclear-tipped missile that could reach all of the United States. Has the country’s nuclear program really come that far?

As global anxiety over North Korea grows and the war of words between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un escalates, it is more important than ever to be precise about what we know, and what we don’t, about Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program and delivery systems. In 2004, nothing I saw on my visit persuaded me that Pyongyang could build a bomb and deliver it. But more recent visits,

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