• Position : Consultant
  • Affiliation : PIR Center
  • Position : Consultant
  • Affiliation : PIR Center
  • Affiliation : "Lifeboat Foundation" expert
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Nuclear and Missile Capabilities of the DPRK – A View from the Far East


MOSCOW, MARCH 30, 2017. PIR PRESS – “The first risk we can identify in the region is the risk of a “war by mistake”. Constant military exercises, huge concentration of forces, regular accidents can lead to an armed conflict,” – expert on the DPRK military capabilities, Vladimir Khrustalev.

On March 28, 2017, as a part of the “Midweek Brainstorming Sessions” PIR Center organized a seminar “Nuclear and Missile Capabilities of the DPRK – a View from the Far East”. The keynote speaker was Vladimir Khrustalev, expert on the DPRK military capabilities, expert of Lifeboat Foundation, editor of the Northeast Asian Military Studies website.

The meeting was attended by Leading Researcher of Center for Korean Studies at the Institute of Far Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), Konstantin Asmolov, PIR Center’s “Russia and Nuclear Nonproliferation” Program Director, Andrey Baklitskiy, PIR Center’s Director Albert Zulkharneev, PhD student of the Center for Korean Studies at the Institute of Far Eastern Studies RAS, Roman Lobov, PhD student of Viatsky University Denis Sadakov, the columnist of the International Affairs journal Andrey Torin, the editor of the bulletin of exclusive analytics Russia Confidential, Julia Fetisova, as well as representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russian Federation, the Ministry of Defense of Russian Federation, the Embassy of Poland in Russia and the Embassy of Japan in Russia.

Vladimir Khrustalev presented his analysis on the dynamic of development of nuclear capabilities of the DPRK. His starting point was that today Pyongyang can be characterized as a de facto nuclear power. At the same time, the expert noted that the DPRK does not pose a direct threat to Russia and China. Regarding the US, Pyongyang plans to move from indirect deterrence to a direct one which will be based on a capability of a nuclear strike against the US in return to a full-scale attack, which would pose an unacceptable risk for Washington. According to Vladimir Khrustalev, both Japan and South Korea should only fear DPRK strike in case of an attack against Pyongyang. According to the expert, in the foreseeable future, the DPRK plans to develop nuclear missile forces capable of surviving the first strike of the enemy and having a good chance of delivering a retaliatory strike despite the ABM systems of the enemy.  

During the discussion, the point was raised that possession of nuclear weapons and means of delivery by the DPRK is still a challenge for Russia because it makes the situation in the nuclear field less predictable.

Giving the bleak forecast for de-escalation in the Korean peninsula, Vladimir Khrustalev warned against hopes that this issue can be resolved by itself, stating that “we should be ready for the worst-case scenario. The first risk we can identify in this region is the risk of a “war by mistake”. Constant military exercises, huge concentration of forces, regular accidents can lead to an armed conflict. With such tension there is a strong possibility of the conflict starting not by someone’s evil will, but as a result of an escalation”.

Konstantin Asmolov came to a similar conclusion, noting, “today we can observe the emerging of a new form of the global order that requires an absolutely new approach to escalating challenges and threats. It will not be the Cold War of classic type, but it will be a quite troublesome model of a divided world. It’s a kind of “cold war of everyone against everyone”. In this situation, the level of tension will increase and the possibility of “war by mistake” is utterly possible”.

The participants of the seminar confirmed the necessity of renewal of direct talks on the DPRK nuclear issue, and noted several difficulties ahead, including the unsolved issue of the further format of the diplomatic process and the reconsideration of the US policy towards Pyongyang under the new administration.

For all questions concerning PIR Center’s program “Russia and Nuclear Nonproliferation” please contact the Program Director Andrey Baklitskiy by phone at +7 (495) 987-19-15 or by email at baklitsky at