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North Korea tensions: what's at stake

Key facts, important developments in long-running standoff between Pyongyang and the West

Last Updated: April 2, 2014

North Korea has long been a thorn in the West's side. The communist state has test-fired missiles, launched satellites into outer space and conducted nuclear weapon tests, all seemingly in the interest of vexing its southern neighbour and Western enemies.

In recent years, Pyongyang has expressed anger over joint South Korean-U.S. military exercises, as well as tightened UN sanctions after its February 2013 nuclear test. The rhetoric has since cooled somewhat, but the situation continues to be volatile.


 

Timeline: Pyongyang vs. the world




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North Korean missile capacity




2009 missile test Few people outside of North Korea's highly secretive leadership know the exact state of the country's nuclear and ballistic missile capacities.

North Korea has several short- and medium-range missiles. Some experts believe Pyongyang may have the know-how to fire a nuclear-tipped missile at its neighbours in South Korea and Japan, particularly after possible knowledge gained from a third nuclear test in February 2013.

But most experts believe North Korea would be unable to hit the U.S. mainland from its own soil.

The country has several ballistic missiles that can reach targets up to an estimated 6,000 km, as shown by the map at right.

However, the reliability and accuracy of these missiles is questionable.

The Taepodong-2 missile failed shortly after launch in 2009.

But a three-stage Unha-3 rocket, partially based on the Taepodong 2 system, launched a satellite into orbit in December 2012.

> Read more about North Korea's missile capacities

Photo: A North Korean missile launch is seen in April 2009 in a still taken from North Korean state television. (KRT TV/AP)

Sources: CBC News stories, wire service reports, Federation of American Scientists, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, International Institute for Strategic Studies