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N.K. may quickly develop miniaturized nuke warhead targeting S. Korea: expert

All Headlines 17:24 April 01, 2016

SEOUL, April 1 (Yonhap) -- North Korea may be able to shorten the time to develop a nuclear warhead small enough to be mounted on a missile if it wants to target South Korea, an expert here said Friday.

North Korea has insisted that it has made nuclear warheads small enough to fit on ballistic missiles, a claim that Seoul and Washington do not buy.

But Lee Chun-geun, a researcher at the Science and Technology Policy Institute, warned that Seoul should brace for the possibility that the North may quickly succeed in miniaturizing nuclear warheads that can hit the South.

"If the North begins to develop detonators that well match its existing missiles including Nodong and Scud ones, the time needed to miniaturize nuclear warheads will be shortened," Lee said. "This could pose a threat to South Korea."

North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and launched a long-range rocket in February in defiance against the international community's stern warning. It carried out nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013, followed by the latest one in 2016.

Pyongyang said last month that it plans to conduct nuclear warhead and ballistic missile tests "in a short time," sparking speculation that it may up the ante and further fuel tensions.

Lee said that North Korea is likely to carry out another nuclear test by possibly using enriched uranium.

The expert also added that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may create military units tasked with developing the country's nuclear weapons program.

"I think North Korea may establish units related to its nuclear arsenal and conduct relevant training," he said.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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