January 07, 2015 10:01
Seoul claims North Korea has refined technology to miniaturize nuclear weapons so they can be mounted on ballistic missiles that threaten the U.S. mainland.
The claim comes in the 2014 Defense White Paper the Defense Ministry here published on Tuesday.
This was the first time the ministry has made the claim in such an emphatic form, although it admitted there are a lot of provisos.
The 2012 Defense White Paper merely mentioned the North's two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, but did not offer any evaluation of the technology to produce viable warheads for missiles.
This year's white paper used the term "North Korea's nuclear weapons" for the first time, since there has long been a polite fiction that the North is not officially a nuclear-armed state.
"Seoul and Washington have reached consensus that the North already reached a significant level of technology to miniaturize nuclear weapons through three nuclear tests," a ministry official said. "But there is no intelligence report that the North has already succeeded in miniaturizing nuclear weapons."
The white paper also says that the maximum range of the North's Taepodong-2 missiles has increased from 6,700 km to 10,000 km. With a range of 6,700 km, a North Korean missile could reach Alaska; and with a range of 10,000 km, it could hit the west coast of the U.S. mainland.
The North has successfully launched a rocket into space, which was widely seen as a covert long-range missile test.
Meanwhile, the white paper says Pyongyang has increased the number of regular Army corps from nine to 10 over the past years, while adding some 10,000 troops to its Air Force.
The total number of military personnel swelled from 990,000 to 1.2 million, double the number of South Korea's 630,000.
There has been no change in the number of North Korean submarines (about 70). But it seems that the regime has built several new ones, including those capable of carrying new torpedoes and even ballistic missiles, the white paper adds.
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