North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un alleges in a new report from Pyongyang that his scientists have “miniaturized” nuclear warheads, making it possible to fit them on ballistic missiles that could reach South Korea or the United States.
The announcement–carried by both the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and the Rodong Sinmun, the state newspaper–quotes Kim as describing the smaller warheads as a “true deterrent” to nuclear war. “The stronger our nuclear strike capability gets, the more powerful our deterrent to aggression and nuclear war grows,” he is alleged to have said. While North Korea has repeatedly claimed to have advanced nuclear technology, this is the first time Kim’s government has alleged that it can use nuclear weapons far beyond its borders.
KCNA alleged that Kim personally “guided the work for mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic rockets” while “praising” the scientists under his command. “He noted it is very gratifying to see the nuclear warheads with the Korean-style structure of mixed charge adequate for prompt thermo-nuclear reaction,” the report reads. KCNA insists in its defense of Kim’s nuclear ambitions that North Korea being equipped with weapons clearly banned by multiple United Nations sanctions is necessary “as long as the imperialists’ nuclear threat and arbitrary practices persist.”
The KCNA report carries with it an image of Kim surrounded by scientists in front of a missile and another weapon partially hidden by Kim himself. According to South Korean newswire service Yonhap, the weapon in question “appears to be a mockup of a round-shaped nuclear warhead that could be mounted atop the KN-08 missile.” Yonhap estimates the range of the KN-08 to be up to 12,000 kilometers, or almost 7,500 miles. This makes it capable of hitting the United States.
Yonhap quotes American and South Korean officials as being confident that their military capabilities are sufficient to easily thwart an attack using such equipment. “With regard to the ballistic missile threat, we still feel confident that we can deter and respond to a missile threat from North Korea,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook told Yonhap.
There is no concrete proof that Pyongyang’s claims of having miniaturized its nuclear weapons are true. Skeptics will cite North Korea’s announcement in January that it had successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb. A significant number of nuclear experts agreed that the blast created by the nuclear test was nowhere near large enough to have been the product of a true hydrogen fusion bomb, instead suggesting that what North Korea detonated was likely a hybrid fusion-fission weapon.
The announcement of miniaturized nuclear weapons follows a declaration by Kim that his forces were ready to deliver a “pre-emptive nuclear strike of justice” onto the United States earlier this week. “The indiscriminate nuclear strike … will clearly show those keen on aggression and war, the military mettle of (North Korea),” he said in a statement on KCNA. A week earlier, Kim had reportedly ordered the military to place the nation’s nuclear weapons on “standby” to be deployed at any moment.
North Korea’s latest attempts at intimidating South Korea and the United States are a response to an extensive military exercise the nations are conducting together. Up to 300,000 forces from both countries are currently engaging in two exercises, code named Foal Eagle and Key Resolve, which will run into April. The exercises simulate a situation in which the Kim dictatorship has collapse and North Korea has dissolved into an anarchic state; soldiers will them practice an invasion of North Korea to restore peace.
“U.S. and South Korean puppet forces are making last-ditch efforts to hurt the dignity and sovereignty of the DPRK by mobilizing huge forces and even almost three major strategic nuclear striking means,” a KCNA column alleges today, accusing the nations of intentionally provoking North Korea for “shedding brilliant rays all over the world by launching self-developed satellites and possessing tremendous self-defensive nuclear deterrence.”
In addition to belligerent press releases through the nation’s media outlets, Pyongyang has once again begun dropping leaflets attacking the South Korean government across the border. Yonhap reports that at least 1,000 leaflets reportedly fell to the northwest of Seoul on Wednesday morning, protesting the joint nuclear exercises with the United States. North Korea has resumed its propaganda activities across the border following Seoul’s decision to once again broadcast audio into North Korea accusing Kim and his government of various human rights abuses, as well as broadcasting South Korean music and entertainment dramas.