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nuclear weapons

Updated at 9:50 p.m. ET Thursday

Japanese and South Korean officials have confirmed another missile test by North Korea Friday morning local time. This is the 15th North Korean missile test this year and the first to come after Pyongyang tested its most powerful nuclear bomb yet.

Intelligence experts say North Korea is several years or more away from having the capability to threaten the U.S. West Coast with a nuclear missile. But recent sabre rattling was enough to make Washington state senators hold a hearing Wednesday about preparedness.

The threat of a nuclear attack, immigration enforcement and paying by the mile to drive are all on the agenda as Washington lawmakers hold meetings the week of September 11.

In the event of a nuclear strike there are state laws that literally ban Washington state officials from doing a part of their job.

Comedians Hari Kondabolu, left, and Dwayne Kennedy, right.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Comedians Hari Kondabolu and Dwayne Kennedy chat with KUOW's Bill Radke on the threat from North Korea, performing in front of conservative audiences and what threat Hillary Clinton would have posed to the world. 


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reviewed his military's plans to rain "an enveloping fire" around the U.S. territory of Guam — but opted not to fire missiles at this time, according to state media. Despite the stand-down, some Guamanians were alarmed after two radio stations aired an erroneous emergency alert Tuesday.

This week saw a dramatic escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula. As North Korea promised to engulf the U.S. territory of Guam in "enveloping fire", President Trump tweeted that the U.S. military is "locked and loaded" should North Korea "act unwisely".

The North's missile and nuclear programs have been shrouded in secrecy for years, but recent tests have shed more light on their capabilities. Here is what's currently known.

North Korean missiles can reach the continental United States.

Updated at 1 p.m. ET

As the leaders of two nuclear-armed countries trade threats, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says President Trump "is sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong Un would understand, because he doesn't seem to understand diplomatic language."

U.S. intelligence analysts say North Korea has developed a warhead that fits on its ballistic missiles, including an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching U.S. territory, according to The Washington Post.

Updated at 8:05 p.m. ET

President Trump on Tuesday threatened to meet North Korea with "fire and fury" a day after Pyongyang said it was ready with "ultimate measures" in response to new U.N. sanctions pushed by Washington.

"North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States," the president warned at a meeting on the opioid crisis held at Bedminster, N.J., where he is on an extended working vacation.

Bill Radke speaks with Kent Boydston, a research analyst with The Peterson Institute for International Economics, about North Korea testing an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach Alaska. Boydston discusses the details of the test, President Trump's response, and how worried we should be living in the Pacific Northwest.

Several years ago, when Garrett Graff was working at Washingtonian magazine, a coworker brought him a lost ID badge that he'd found on the floor of a parking garage.

"It was a government ID for someone from the intelligence community, and he gave it to me since I write about that subject, and he's like, "I figure you can get this back to this guy,' " Graff recalls.

A North Korean soldier looks at the southern side through a pair of binoculars at the border village of Panmunjom, north of Seoul, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2003.
AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

“It is very likely by the end of Mr. Trump's first term, the North Koreans will be able to reach Seattle.” —Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and NSA.

President-elect Donald Trump tweeted that would never happen.

This week, we're the target

Jan 6, 2017
'Week in Review' panel Joni Balter, Knute Berger, Eli Sanders and Bill Radke.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

The Washington State Legislature convenes on Monday and one of the issues on the table is a bill that would ban drivers from holding their phone while driving. Is this a necessity or distracted legislating?

The former head of the CIA General Michael Hayden said that by the end of Trump’s first four years in office, North Korea could have a nuclear weapon that would reach Seattle. Richard Ellings of the National Bureau of Asian Research says Seattle would be the perfect target. Is it time to move?  

North Korea got 2017 off to a menacing start. In his New Year's address, supreme leader Kim Jong Un warned that the nation was in the "final stage" of preparations to test an intercontinental ballistic missile.

A day later, President-elect Donald Trump said the North would never develop a nuclear weapon capable of striking the U.S. "It won't happen!" Trump tweeted.

Soon-to-be President Donald Trump will hold the keys, or the codes, to America's nuclear weapons arsenal in a few short weeks.

The U.S. and Russia are the world's two mightiest nuclear powers, and yet over the years, they've made deals to reduce their respective arsenals.

Just like a marriage gone bad, though, things have soured between Washington and Moscow. Bickering over nuclear issues has increased markedly in recent months, with each side accusing the other of cheating.

And that war of words is being matched by actions:

In a cavernous, dimly-lit auditorium in Washington last month, three officials took the stage.

They settled themselves into tan, leather armchairs and fielded questions, including this one: Name a global flashpoint you're looking to with concern?

"North Korea," came the reply from one. "And how the United States and China deal with that situation."

The exchange is worth noting because the three people on stage were current or former CIA officials.

Dr. Ira Helfand at 2013 conference in Oslo, Norway.
Flickr Photo/atomwaffenfrei. jetzt (CC BY NC 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/e1AiM1

What have we learned from our historic use of nuclear weapons? And given their terrible destructive force, why have we not banned them? 

This talk by Dr. Ira Helfand offers detailed insights into the dangers of nuclear proliferation and war. He covers the risks of the U.S.-Russia and India-Pakistan conflicts, the threat of terrorism, the North Korean wild card, the possibility of an accidental war, and how a modern nuclear war would impact humans and the environment.

President Obama came into office with a dream of a world without nuclear weapons, and he's sure to touch on this theme Friday when he becomes the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, site of the world's first atomic bombing.

Yet Obama also has put the U.S. on course to spend around $1 trillion on upgrading its nuclear arsenal over the next three decades, critics say.

Everything about nuclear weapons is extreme: the implications of their use, the costs involved, and the strategic and political paradoxes they create.

The U.S. nuclear weapons system still runs on a 1970s-era computing system that uses 8-inch floppy disks, according to a newly released report from the Government Accountability Office.

That's right. It relies on memory storage that hasn't been commonly used since the 1980s and a computing system that looks like this:

Today marks a major milestone in the Iran nuclear deal.

It's known as Implementation Day, the day when the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, says that Iran has curbed its nuclear program enough to begin receiving relief on sanctions. The terms were laid out last July by Iran, the U.S. and five other world powers.