September 11, 2015 09:27
Defense Minister Han Min-koo on Thursday said the South Korean military is preparing for the "high likelihood" that North Korea will deploy nuclear weapons warfare-ready.
Han was speaking at the Defense Ministry during a parliamentary audit.
Asked how far the North has come on the road to miniaturizing nuclear warheads so they fit on a missile, he said, "Considering the North's own statement that it'll keep trying to diversify, miniaturize, and refine nuclear weapons, we believe such things to be highly likely, and are keeping close watch on the North's movements."
He added the government presumes that the North has about seven nuclear weapons based on the amount of plutonium it would have been able to produce.
In the 2014 Defense White Paper the ministry said it presumes that the North has made "considerable progress" in miniaturizing nuclear weapons.
Han said there are also no signs of the North conducting a long-range missile test on the 70th anniversary of its Workers Party's founding on Oct. 10, although there has been speculation at home and abroad.
But a ministry official said that the construction of a launch site for long-range rockets at Tongchang-ri is in its final stage.
The South Korean military will take an offensive posture in the demilitarized zone in case of any provocations after two South Korean soldiers were maimed by box mines and the two Koreas exchanged fire across the border.
North Korean naval boats are repeatedly crossing the Northern Limit Line in the West Sea under the pretext of cracking down on illegal fishing operations during the blue crab season from September to November, he added.
Meanwhile, Seoul seems to be backtracking again on plans to station U.S. Terminal High Altitude Defense batteries in South Korea, which are upsetting China. Han claimed there will "probably" be no discussion of the matter when President Park Geun-hye meets her U.S. counterpart Barack Obama in Washington next month.
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