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(LEAD) N. Korea says it has 'miniaturized' nuke warheads

All Headlines 09:24 March 09, 2016

(ATTN: REWRITES headline, lead; UPDATES with more info throughout)

SEOUL, March 9 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has made nuclear warheads small enough to fit on ballistic missiles, the North's state media said Wednesday, in the latest claim that it has advanced its weapons capabilities.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said that the North has made a nuclear bomb lighter and achieved its "standardization," according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

"The nuclear warheads have been standardized to be fit for ballistic missiles by miniaturizing them," Kim was quoted as saying by the KCNA. "This can be called true nuclear deterrent."

He made such remarks at a meeting with scientists and technicians, where he gave his guidance on the development of nuclear weapons.

Pyongyang has threatened to take pre-emptive nuclear strikes against South Korea and the United States as Seoul and Washington kicked off their largest-ever joint military drills on Monday. The North claims the drills are a rehearsal for a northward invasion.

A week ago, the United Nations Security Council adopted a new sanctions resolution punishing the North for its Jan. 6 nuclear test and Feb. 7 long-range rocket launch.

The North said its long-range rocket launch was to send a satellite into orbit, but Seoul and Washington view it as a cover for a banned test of ballistic missile technology.

Pyongyang has insisted it has entered the technological phase to miniaturize and diversify nuclear bombs, but outside experts have raised doubts about its claim.

North Korea has made efforts to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching as far as the U.S. mainland.

Experts say long-range rockets and intercontinental ballistic missiles are basically the same, differing only in payload.

sshluck@yna.co.kr

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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