PYONGYANG: North Korea said Wednesday it has the technology to make nuclear warheads small enough to be mounted on missiles, a day after a top U.S. military officer said the country was many years away from such an ability.
A spokesman for Pyongyang’s powerful National Defense Commission said in a statement Wednesday that it will defend the country with such technology, according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency. The North Korean report was carried by the South Korean news agency Yonhap, the country’s largest news agency.
The statement said North Korea already had the technology required, but it did not make clear whether it had yet succeeded in making any such nuclear warheads, according to Yonhap.
Wednesday’s statement came just weeks after North Korean state media showed photos of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un allegedly observing the testing of such a missile. The photos released earlier this month showed a projectile coming out of the sea from what appeared to be a floating submarine while the North Korean leader looked on from a distance. He declared it to be a “world-level strategic weapon,” news reports said at the time.
The new statement threatens to further escalate tensions sparked by those earlier reports and reveals a more aggressive stance being taken by Pyongyang.
In Washington Tuesday, Adm. James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Center for Strategic and International Studies that the North Koreans “have not gotten as far as their clever video editors and spinmeisters would have us believe,” the Associated Press reported.
“They are many years away from developing this capability,” Winnefeld said, according to the news agency. “But if they are eventually able to do so it will present a hard-to-detect danger for Japan and South Korea as well as our service members stationed in the region.”
Winnefeld said that such a capability by Pyongyang “only reinforces the importance of regional ballistic missile defense”.
Experts questioned the authenticity of the test photos with some speculating that the missile could have been launched from a submerged barge rather than a submarine. Some experts do warn, however, that the missile is in an early stage of development.
North Korea already has hundreds of land-based ballistic missiles and is widely believed to be advancing its efforts to make smaller nuclear warheads. U.S. officials have warned that Pyongyang could be capable of launching a nuclear missile that could reach the United States, but they say it has not been tested yet.