Foreign Affairs, Military, Nuclear Weapons

Beyond Parallel Snapshot: North Korea’s Five Nuclear Tests

bookend Key points

  • North Korea conducted a fifth nuclear test on September 9, 2016 at the Punggye-ri nuclear testing facility
  • The explosive yield of the test was assessed by experts to be 10 kilotons, higher than any other past test
  • North Korea announced through state media that they successfully tested a miniaturized nuclear warhead
  • North Korea’s statements also suggested fluency with both plutonium and uranium-based warheads
  • Pyongyang is determined to show that they seek a survivable nuclear deterrent
  • North Korea has demonstrated in the past year through testing and propaganda: miniaturized warhead, re-entry vehicle, solid fuel propellant, and mobile-launch capabilities
  • Data from Beyond Parallel shows a step increase in intensity and frequency of North Korean missile and nuclear tests since 2009
  • Due to tests, North Korean nuclear and missile capabilities are developing faster than world leaders and experts have anticipated

North Korean Nuclear Tests

North Korea Five Nuclear Tests

Sources: 1


North Korean Missile Launches and Nuclear Tests 1994 – 2016*


  • SRBM – Short- range ballistic missile
  • IRBM – Intermediate- range ballistic missile
  • SLBM – Submarine- launched ballistic missile
  • MRBM – Medium-range ballistic missile
  • ICBM – Intercontinental-ballistic missile
  • Others – Includes anti-ship cruise missiles, short range, and long-range surface to air missiles.

*In some circumstances, North Korea may have fired more than one missile during a missile launch event. For example, on July 4, 2006, three types of missiles were launched on the same day, but was counted as one event. 2

Worldwide Reactions to North Korea’s 5th Nuclear Test

“The standardization of the nuclear warhead will enable the DPRK to produce at will and as many as it wants a variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power and with a firm hold on the technology for producing and using various materials. This has definitely put on a higher level the DPRK’s technology of mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic rockets.” – KCNA
“The United States condemns North Korea’s September 9 nuclear test in the strongest possible terms as a grave threat to regional security and to international peace and stability. North Korea stands out as the only country to have tested nuclear weapons this century.” – U.S. president Barack Obama
“This is testament to the fanatical recklessness of the Kim Jong-un regime that is obsessed with nuclear development in complete disregard of the international community’s united resolve against the North Korean nuclear program.” – ROK president Park Geun-hye
“Japan lodges a serious protest against North Korea, and condemns North Korea in the strongest possible terms.” – Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe
“In disregard of the international community’s opposition, the DPRK conducted the fifth nuclear test. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has made a statement which expresses the Chinese government’s firm opposition.” – Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China
“We insist that the North Korean side end its dangerous and reckless misadventures, comply in good faith with all UN Security Council directives, completely abandon its nuclear missile programmes and return to the NPT regime.” – Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
“Rather than pursuing nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology, the DPRK should be promoting the well-being of the country’s people. I count on the Security Council to remain united and take appropriate action. We must urgently break this accelerating spiral of escalation. – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
“I urge the DPRK to refrain from further nuclear testing and to join the 183 States Signatories who have signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)… I sincerely hope that this will serve as the final wake-up call to the international community to outlaw all nuclear testing…” – Executive Secretary of CTBTO Lassina Zerbo 3


  1. United States Geological Survey (USGS), Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), ROK Ministry of National Defense.
  2. United States Geological Survey (USGS), Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), ROK Ministry of National Defense
  3. KCNA, The White House, The Blue House, Kantei, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, CTBTO.