December 31, 2018 13:13
North Korea could acquire up to 100 warheads by 2020 despite stopping nuclear and missile tests this year, NBC quoted an expert as speculating Friday.
"North Korea continues to produce fissile material and develop missile bases around the country, according to experts and analysis of detailed satellite images," NBC said.
"At the current rate of production, North Korea could have around 100 warheads by 2020 -- almost half the size of the U.K.'s stockpile," it quoted Robert Litwak of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington as saying.
South Korean and U.S. intelligence agencies believe that the North currently has 20 to 60 nuclear warheads.
"Kim has not changed his policy... but claims that he's now moved from research-and-development and onto mass production," said Cristina Varriale of the Royal United Services Institute in London.
In his New Year's Day address last year, Kim said, "The nuclear weapons research sector and the rocket industry should mass-produce nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles." The implication is that Kim is continuing his nuclear buildup, while buying time through diplomacy with South Korea and the U.S.
Meanwhile Ted Poe, the chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade, told Congress that the West's maximum pressure policy "appears at risk due to South Korea's dovish president."
President Moon Jae-in's "separate diplomatic maneuvers and premature offers of economic opportunities are likely encouraging the Kim regime to slow negotiations and steps towards denuclearization," he added according to Voice of America on Friday.
"If Kim sees weakness in our South Korean allies that he can use to chip away at the current sanctions on his regime, he will continue to stall negotiations and our leverage will begin to collapse. President Moon must not be deceived by Kim’s small gestures of goodwill and prematurely fold," Poe warned.
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