8 key questions about the escalating North Korean nuclear situation

Tensions have escalated between the U.S. and North Korea.

— -- The escalation of tensions between the U.S. and North Korea comes amid the new assessment by U.S. intelligence agencies that North Korea has the capability of fitting a miniaturized nuclear warhead inside an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Here's what you need to know about the situation.

What missile capability does North Korea have?

Most of North Korea's military equipment dates back to the Cold War-era and was obtained from the Soviet Union and China. But the large size of its military poses a constant threat to South Korea, since 70 percent of its ground forces and half of its air and naval forces are stationed within 60 miles of the Demilitarized Zone that divides North Korea and South Korea.

The product of that work was revealed in a July intercontinental ballistic missile test. At the time, the country's ability to put a miniaturized nuclear warhead was unclear, but it was the distance the ICBM traveled -- more than 3,400 miles -- that prompted concerns.

How far can the missiles travel?

North Korea has been firing these missiles vertically to maximize their distance and to avoid flying over Japan and other countries in the region.

"The missile itself reached an apex of almost 1,700 miles, which means -- had it been on a max-range trajectory -- it could have reached Anchorage and wouldn't have been far from reaching Seattle," Ganyard said on July 4 on ABC News' "World News Tonight."

Does North Korea have nuclear weapons?

Yes. North Korea has a small arsenal of nuclear weapons as proven by its five nuclear tests. The new assessment from the Defense Intelligence Agency estimates that North Korea now has as many as 60 nuclear warheads, much higher than previously believed. A 2016 Congressional Research Service report estimated that North Korea has between 44 and 66 pounds of separated plutonium, enough for at least half a dozen nuclear weapons. But other estimates are higher. The Institute for Science and International Security estimated in 2014 that North Korea could build 10 to 16 nuclear weapons.

How advanced are North Korea's missiles?

On Aug. 8, it was revealed that members of the U.S. intelligence community believe North Korea's nuclear capabilities are more advanced and the country may have developed the technology to place a miniaturized nuclear warhead inside a missile, a U.S. official confirmed to ABC News.

"The IC [intelligence community] assesses North Korea has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, to include delivery by ICBM-class missiles," a source told The Post, which cites a July 28 report by the Defense Intelligence Agency about North Korea’s capability of placing a nuclear warhead atop an intercontinental ballistic missile.

When was the most recent North Korean missile test?

On July 28. It was the country's 11th missile test so far this year.

What are U.S. defenses against a possible missile strike by North Korea?

In late May, the Missile Defense Agency successfully tested an interceptor that targeted an ICBM test missile fired from the Kwajalein Atoll in the South Pacific.

What are the latest sanctions issued against North Korea?

The sanctions ban North Korean exports of coal, iron, lead and seafood products, estimated to be worth $1 billion a year.

North Korea slammed the penalties — which would slash a third of the country’s $3 billion in export revenue — as a “violent infringement of its sovereignty” and part of a “heinous U.S. plot to isolate and stifle” the country, according to a statement released through the state-run media outlet, Korean Central News Agency.

“It’s a wild idea to think the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] will be shaken and change its position due to this kind of new sanctions formulated by hostile forces,” Pyongyang said in a statement.

What are the options for dealing with North Korea?

In April, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that “all options are on the table” but warned that “if they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action, that option is on the table.”

Economic sanctions were widely considered to be the first realistic option. Now that further sanctions have been issued, the next possible steps are still being determined.