September 18, 2021

North Korea ‘Has Miniature Nuclear Warhead’, Says Kim Jong-un

North Korea 'has miniature nuclear warhead', says Kim Jong-unImage caption North Korea claims it now possesses the technology to mount nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles

Kim Jong-un has claimed North Korean scientists have developed miniaturised nuclear warheads, small enough to fit on its ballistic missiles.

State media has made this claim before but this is the first time its leader has been quoted saying it directly.

But experts have long cast doubt on such assertions from the North.

The state has stepped up its bellicose rhetoric in the wake of tough UN sanctions imposed after its nuclear and rocket tests earlier this year.

In recent days it has also threatened to launch an “indiscriminate” nuclear strike on the US and South Korea, as they began their largest ever round of annual military exercises.

The drills, known as Foal Eagle and Key Resolve, routinely generate tension.

North Korean news agency KCNA released this picture on 4 March of Kim Jong-un at what it said was the testing of a multiple launch rocket system

Claims questioned

The claim from Mr Kim was made as he inspected a nuclear facility on Wednesday.

“The nuclear warheads have been standardized to be fit for ballistic missiles by miniaturising them,” state media agency KCNA quoted him as saying.

“This can be called true nuclear deterrent,” he added.

He also inspected nuclear warheads designed for thermo-nuclear reaction, the type used in a hydrogen bomb, KCNA said.

If the claim is true and North Korea can put nuclear warheads onto the tips of its ballistic weapons, it would represent a clear threat to the North’s neighbours and the US.

In October 2014, the commander of US forces in South Korea, Gen Curtis Scaparrotti, told reporters that he believed the North had the capability to miniaturise a nuclear device.

In May 2015, the North Korea’s National Defence Commission said the country had succeeded in miniaturising nuclear weapons.

But the validity of the nuclear boasts have been widely questioned. Experts also still doubt the North’s claim that the nuclear test it conducted in January was of a hydrogen bomb.

That test, which came after the launch of a satellite into space, led to the UN imposing some of its toughest ever sanctions on North Korea.

South Korea has also announced its own measures against the North, which includes blacklisting individuals and entities it believes are linked to the weapons programme.

The US and South Korea are currently discussing the possible deployment of a US missile defence system to the peninsula, a move strongly opposed by North Korea, Russia and China.