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S. Korean businessman claims N. Korea developed small nuclear warhead

All Headlines 18:30 May 30, 2011

SEOUL, May 30 (Yonhap) -- A South Korean businessman claimed Monday that North Korea has succeeded in mounting a nuclear warhead on a missile that can reach the United States.

Kim Young-il, the head of a small South Korean firm that has business ties with North Korea, said he heard the information from a person familiar with the North's missile development about a month ago.

He declined to give any further details, including the person's nationality, because of a government ban on South Koreans from holding unauthorized contact with North Koreans. But his comment indicated the person may be a North Korean.

He made the claim in a forum at South Korea's parliament in Seoul.

The National intelligence Service, South Korea's top spy agency, said it had no immediate comment.

The allegation, if confirmed, would tip the regional security balance and represents a threat Washington has feared.

A U.S. defense official said in January that North Korea's missiles and nuclear weapons will pose a threat to the U.S. within five years. Some experts say Pyongyang may have already developed nuclear warheads small enough for missile payloads.

North Korea conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 and test-fired ballistic missiles three times in 1998, 2006 and 2009.

Meanwhile, Kim also claimed North Korea has inked a deal with China to explore offshore oil reserves in waters between their countries.

The reserves are believed to be containing 20.5 billion tons of oil, Kim said, adding that he estimated that one-third of the oil reserves could be explored, an amount he says China can consume for about 30 years.

He declined to give any further details.

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