North Korea spent most of last year perfecting its missile arsenal and it's not clear Kim Jong Un is ready to give that up

  • North Korea has agreed to suspend its nuclear and long-range missile program but made no mention of abandoning its weapons.
  • Since 2011, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has fired more than 90 missiles and conducted four nuclear weapons tests.
  • North Korea remains the only nation to test nuclear weapons in this century.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the intermediate-range ballistic missile Pukguksong-2's launch test in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency, May 22, 2017.
KCNA | Reuters
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the intermediate-range ballistic missile Pukguksong-2's launch test in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency, May 22, 2017.

The only nation to test nuclear weapons this century has agreed to suspend its nuclear and long-range missile program and close a major launch site but made no mention of abandoning its weapons.

Speaking to North Korean government officials Friday, leader Kim Jong Un reportedly said that he has "verified the completion of nuclear weapons" and as such, "will stop nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles."

"We no longer need any nuclear test or test launches of intermediate and intercontinental range ballistic missiles, and because of this the northern nuclear test site has finished its mission," Kim said according to the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency.

President Donald Trump welcomed the announcement, saying "this is very good news for North Korea and the World" but did not comment on Kim's apparent satisfaction with the state of the regime's missile and nuclear program.

The announcement from the North comes just six days before Kim crosses the 38th parallel to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the border village of Panmunjom.

The April 27 meeting signals a reduction in tensions on the Korean peninsula as it will be the first face-to-face summit between the leaders of North Korea and South Korea since 2007.

And while the details of Trump's unprecedented meeting with Kim remains to be seen, experts remind that North Korea spent most of 2017 perfecting its missile arsenal.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 (Mars-12) in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 15, 2017.
KCNA | Reuters
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 (Mars-12) in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 15, 2017.

"Everyone should temper expectations for a near-term resolution of the situation on the Korean peninsula," retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, a senior defense fellow for Defense Priorities, told CNBC.

"There is little chance Kim Jong Un will give up his nuclear weapons, which means the best option for the U.S. is to manage and deter North Korea, as we have successfully done for decades."

Davis, who served as an advisor to the Second Republic of Korea Army during his military career, noted that despite Kim's purported nuclear weapons arsenal, the status quo on the Korean peninsula favors the United States and not North Korea.

"The U.S. is in a dominant negotiating position because no matter what happens in these discussions, the overwhelming superiority of our conventional and nuclear capabilities ensures the security of America and our allies Japan and South Korea," Davis said.

Similarly, another expert compared the relationship between the U.S. and North Korea to a recurring scene of frustration in "Peanuts" cartoons.

"Historically, every time Charlie Brown runs for the football, Lucy pulls it away," Thomas Karako, director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, previously told CNBC. "It would be a remarkable thing if Lucy didn't pull the football out from Charlie Brown this time, but it's one of those things where I'll believe it when I see it."

North Korea is Lucy in this case.

Under third-generation North Korean leader Kim, the reclusive state has conducted its most powerful nuclear test, launched its first-ever intercontinental ballistic missile and threatened to send missiles into the waters near the U.S. territory of Guam.

What's more, the acceleration and frequency of testing show not only Kim's nuclear ambitions but also that the nation has developed an arsenal. (Click on the graphic to expand.)

Since 2011, Kim has fired more than 90 missiles and conducted four nuclear weapons tests, which is more than what his father, Kim Jong Il, and grandfather, Kim Il Sung, launched over a period of 27 years.

The North's arsenal includes short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, intercontinental ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. The Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile is the most powerful rocket the North has tested to date.

The missile, also known as KN-22 by the U.S., is believed to have a range capable of hitting the entire continental United States, according to estimates from the Missile Defense Project.

In 2017 alone, Kim launched 24 missiles and carried out North Korea's largest nuclear test.

As it stands, North Korea remains the only nation to test nuclear weapons in this century.

On Sept. 3, the rogue regime carried out its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, saying it detonated an advanced hydrogen bomb designed for a long-range missile.

The bomb is estimated to have had an explosive yield of 120 kilotons, which equates to a blast created from 265 million pounds worth of TNT, according to Norsar, a Norwegian geoscience research foundation.

"Kim Jong Un has repeatedly emphasized that nuclear weapons were a fundamental part of his national security and his nation's survival, and they even put nuclear weapons into their constitution," Lisa Collins, a fellow with the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told CNBC.

"It's a little surprising and difficult for me to believe that they would change that stance overnight," Collins added.