The hermit nation today

    There's no place on Earth like North Korea.
    Its citizens are closed off from the rest of the world, mostly impoverished and are only allowed to access state-run propaganda.
    Its government is armed to the teeth with the world's fourth-largest standing military, chemical weapons, highly-trained special forces and now, nuclear weapons -- which they likely believe are the key to their survival.
    Now, many worry that the most mysterious and dangerous regimes on the globe has an arsenal of weapons that can rain nuclear destruction almost anywhere in the world.
    This picture taken on January 5, 2017 and released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 6, 2017 shows a mass rally taking place at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang.
Thousands of North Koreans have rallied in Pyongyang, chanting communist slogans and vowing support for leader Kim Jong-Un, who in his New Year's message announced plans to test-fire a ballistic missile capable of reaching the US mainland. / AFP / KCNA VIA KNS / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT   ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP.  /         (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
    This picture taken on January 5, 2017 and released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 6, 2017 shows a mass rally taking place at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang.
Thousands of North Koreans have rallied in Pyongyang, chanting communist slogans and vowing support for leader Kim Jong-Un, who in his New Year's message announced plans to test-fire a ballistic missile capable of reaching the US mainland. / AFP / KCNA VIA KNS / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT   ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP.  /         (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

      JUST WATCHED

      This picture taken on January 5, 2017 and released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 6, 2017 shows a mass rally taking place at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang. Thousands of North Koreans have rallied in Pyongyang, chanting communist slogans and vowing support for leader Kim Jong-Un, who in his New Year's message announced plans to test-fire a ballistic missile capable of reaching the US mainland. / AFP / KCNA VIA KNS / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP. / (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

    MUST WATCH

History 

This picture released by North Korean news agency Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 1, 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un delivering the new year message in Pyongyang. / AFP / KCNA VIA KNS / STRINGER / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT   ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP.  /          (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

    Kim Jong Un

    North Korea's leader is the youngest son of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. Since succeeding his father in 2011, Kim Jong Un has impressed and confounded with his rise from political novice to adept operator.
    Consolidating his power has been key to Kim's rise, and much of this has been done in a brutal, bloody manner.
    Key to securing his leadership is attaining the long-held goal of nuclearization. The regime is in the final stretch of a long program to obtain the weaponry, and with it the stature of being part of the exclusive nuclear club.

    MUST WATCH

The weapons 

    The nukes

    In this undated image distributed on Sunday, September 3, 2017, by the North Korean government, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at an undisclosed location.
    In this undated image distributed on Sunday, September 3, 2017, by the North Korean government, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at an undisclosed location.

      JUST WATCHED

      In this undated image distributed on Sunday, September 3, 2017, by the North Korean government, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at an undisclosed location.

    MUST WATCH

    The end game: Deterrence

    North Korea has long maintained it wants nuclear weapons and long-range missiles to deter the United States from attempting to overthrow the regime of Kim Jong Un.
    Pyongyang looks at states such as Iraq -- where Saddam Hussein was overthrown by the United States, and Libya -- its late leader, Moammar Gadhafi, gave up his nuclear ambitions for sanctions relief and aid, only to be toppled and killed after the United States intervened in his country's civil unrest -- and believes that only being able to threaten the US mainland with a retaliatory nuclear strike can stop American military intervention.
    Many experts say they believe North Korea would not use the weapons first. Kim values his regime's survival above all else and knows the use of a nuclear weapon would start a war he could not win, analysts say.

    The missiles

    MUST WATCH

North Asia on edge 

    In this handout provided by the U.S. Navy, a combined formation of aircraft from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 pass in formation above the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). The formation included F/A-18 Hornets from the Black Aces of Strike Fighter Squadron 41, the Diamondbacks of Strike Fighter Squadron 102, the Eagles of Strike Fighter Squadron 115, the Royal Maces of Strike Fighter Squadron 27, the Vigilantes of Strike Fighter Squadron 151, and the Warhawks of Strike Fighter Squadron 97. The Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS John C. Stennis and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) are conducting dual aircraft carrier strike group operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
    In this handout provided by the U.S. Navy, a combined formation of aircraft from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 pass in formation above the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). The formation included F/A-18 Hornets from the Black Aces of Strike Fighter Squadron 41, the Diamondbacks of Strike Fighter Squadron 102, the Eagles of Strike Fighter Squadron 115, the Royal Maces of Strike Fighter Squadron 27, the Vigilantes of Strike Fighter Squadron 151, and the Warhawks of Strike Fighter Squadron 97. The Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS John C. Stennis and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) are conducting dual aircraft carrier strike group operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.

      JUST WATCHED

      In this handout provided by the U.S. Navy, a combined formation of aircraft from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 pass in formation above the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). The formation included F/A-18 Hornets from the Black Aces of Strike Fighter Squadron 41, the Diamondbacks of Strike Fighter Squadron 102, the Eagles of Strike Fighter Squadron 115, the Royal Maces of Strike Fighter Squadron 27, the Vigilantes of Strike Fighter Squadron 151, and the Warhawks of Strike Fighter Squadron 97. The Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS John C. Stennis and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) are conducting dual aircraft carrier strike group operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.

    MUST WATCH

    The major military players

    Tensions in Asia Pacific have reached ominous new levels. Flashpoints in the South and East China Seas, the Korean Peninsula and the Taiwan Strait have led to a renewed arms race, as regional players look to secure dominance in the face of new and shifting challenges.