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(LEAD)(NK N-test) N. Korea may conduct additional nuclear test: Seoul spy agency

All Headlines 20:41 February 12, 2013

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details from NIS chief in paras 5-8)

SEOUL, Feb. 12 (Yonhap) -- North Korea may conduct an additional nuclear test and launch a long-range missile if the United Nations moves to penalize it for its third nuclear test, Seoul's spy agency said Tuesday.

In a meeting with lawmakers belonging to the parliament's intelligence committee, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) said that it is too early to say the North has succeeded in weaponizing its nuclear technology.

North Korea has yet to complete the technology for miniaturizing and lightening nuclear devices, the NIS said, predicting that the communist country may engage in saber rattling tactics that can include a demonstration of force or actual military clash. It said the North may even announce it has deployed operation nuclear warheads that can be used as weapons.

After the closed door parliamentary session, Reps. Yoon Sang-hyun and Jung Cheong-rae told reporters that the NIS forecast that even in such cases, China would still support its communist neighbor.

They said NIS director Won Sei-hoon pointed out to lawmakers that the North has yet to meet all four requirements to be considered a full-fledged nuclear power. Won said that Pyongyang has nuclear detonation technology and developed a long-range delivery system, but doubted it has been able to make its fission device small and light weight enough to be placed on a missile, nor has it acquired the knowhow to stop a nuclear warhead from reentering the atmosphere without burning up and being destroyed.

The spy agency chief added that he did not fully believe North Korea's claim of a successful nuclear test.

Seoul said the detonation that was picked up just before noon had a yield of 6-7 kilotons, which is smaller than the atomic bomb dropped by the United States on Hiroshima in World War II.

According to the lawmakers, the NIS, meanwhile, speculated that Pyongyang must have decided to go ahead with the nuke test in the face of international pressure because of its need to improve its nuclear weapons technology and follow through on the will of late leader Kim Jong-il, who wanted to transform the North into a nuclear power. The late leader is the father of incumbent leader Kim Jong-un.

The lawmakers said the test was pushed forward to show off the leadership of Kim Jong-un and raise the bargaining chips the isolationist country vis-a-vis the incoming Park Geun-hye administration in South Korea and with U.S. President Barack Obama.

Before the latest test, the North detonated nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009.


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