North Korea says it can drop a nuclear bomb on the US at 'any time'

GlobalPost
People watch a news report at a railway station in Seoul on Sept. 15, 2015, on the confirmation from North Korea that the nuclear reactor seen as the country's main source of weapons-grade plutonium had resumed normal operations, raising a further red flag amid growing signs the North may be considering a long-range rocket launch next month in violation of UN resolutions.
KIM JAE-HWAN

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NEED TO KNOW:

The South Korea lobby is not as powerful in the United States as the Israel lobby. That's just one explanation for why the United States has spent so much time confronting Iran over its suspected nuclear weapons program, which Iran denies ever existed, and so little time confronting North Korea, which boasts about its program on a regular basis.

With all the talk about Iran, it's easy to forget that Iran never had nuclear weapons. And it's easy to forget that North Korea does. So does Israel, by the way. And Pakistan and India. And France and the UK. And China. The United States has so many it's difficult to count. Same with Russia. Here’s a detailed list of countries with nuclear bombs, if you are interested.

North Korea today, in its typically blustery way, announced that it was improving its nuclear arsenal in both “quality and quantity.” It added that its main nuclear complex is now fully operational. And then it threatened the United States, noting that North Korea is “fully ready to cope with them with nuclear weapons at any time.” Well then.

The truth is North Korea probably isn't ready to bomb the United States. Most experts don’t think North Korea has figured out how to mount a nuclear weapon onto a missile that can deliver it particularly far. Of course, if and when it does, it could be too late to start worrying.

That said, some experts on North Korea think the country's nuclear capabilities could actually grow to scary levels sooner than later. Right now, North Korea has 10 or 15 nuclear weapons, but no proven means to deliver them. Researchers at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said in February that number could leap to 100 if the world isn't more careful. The US government itself has expressed “deep concern” that North Korea continues to “advance their nuclear capabilities.”

WANT TO KNOW:

Before Syria became the most dangerous place on Earth, Afghanistan was. And so for many years it was Afghans who were fleeing their dangerous country in record numbers. While that migration has slowed, it has by no means ended. And the dangers in Afghanistan have not gone away.

In fact, the last few years have been some of the deadliest in recent memory for Afghanistan. This year is on track to be the bloodiest yet for civilians, at least since the United States first invaded 13 years ago. The United Nations says more people will likely be killed this year than in 2014, when 3,000 civilians died.

The Taliban, which led Afghanistan until the United States invaded and overthrew it in 2001 for harboring Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, has never gone away. And now it's resurgent.

Early Monday morning local time, the Taliban attacked a large prison in central Afghanistan, managing to free some 350 of its jailed fighters. It's the third massive jailbreak in the last five years. During the first, in 2008, more than 900 Taliban members escaped from a prison in Kandahar. In 2011, another 500 escaped from a high-security prison through an elaborate underground tunnel.

It's bad timing for the Afghan government, which will soon be marking one year in office and needs to convince Afghan citizens that it's capable of improving security. It will also serve as a likely morale boost for the Taliban, which has been saddled with division since the world recently discovered that its leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had died two years earlier.

But it is Afghan civilians who are the most at risk. Afghanistan has been at war for going on four decades. It's not hard to imagine why someone would want to go live elsewhere.

STRANGE BUT TRUE:

Everyone needs to go ahead and pack their bags and head to Brazil. Katy Perry is playing a concert in Sao Paulo on Sept. 25 if you need a reason.

Here's another one:

Two years ago Brazil was impossibly expensive. The New York Times wrote a famous story about a $30 pizza. It was crazy, especially since the average income for Brazilians in 2013 was a mere $12,000 a year.

Two years later, everything is different. For those fortunate enough to earn US dollars or euros (both strong currencies right now), Brazil is suddenly affordable again.

Political crises, a growing scandal at the country’s national oil company, and an economic slowdown in China — Brazil’s largest trading partner — have contributed to a 40 percent drop in the value of the Brazilian currency, the real, since September 2013,” writes GlobalPost Senior Correspondent Will Carless, who is based in Brazil.