North Korea’s capability to miniaturize a nuclear weapon appears to have reached “a significant level,” according to South Korea’s defense chief.
During a parliament audit Monday, South Korean Defense Minister Han Min Koo told lawmakers it is prudent for the South Korean military to prepare for this scenario.
Han also said he believes Pyongyang is capable of building a uranium-based nuclear weapon. South Korean military and intelligence authorities believe that since 2010, the North has acquired up to 40 kilograms of highly enriched uranium per year, a sufficient amount to build up to two nuclear weapons.
His comments follow a statement by the U.S. military commander in South Korea, General Curtis Scaparrotti, who told reporters Friday at the Pentagon that Pyongyang has the ability to miniaturize nuclear warheads for the purpose of putting them on a ballistic missile.
“I believe they have the capability to have miniaturized the device at this point, and they have the technology to potentially, actually deliver what they say they have,” said Scaparrotti.
Washington and Seoul have already announced a new agreement to delay the transfer of wartime operational control of combined forces on the Korean Peninsula because of North Korean threats, including Pyongyang’s enhancement of missile and nuclear capabilities.
This week, envoys of the U.S. and South Korea are expected to engage in intense diplomatic activities on North Korea. The State Department said the U.S. Special Envoy for six-party talks, Sydney Seiler, will travel to Seoul, Beijing, and Tokyo.
South Korea’s top nuclear envoy will travel to Beijing for a meeting with his counterpart on Friday.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.