North Korea can put nuclear warhead on mid-range missile: South

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon

South Korea Changes Assessment of North Korea's Nuclear Capability

North Korea can mount a nuclear warhead on a medium-range missile, a South Korean official said on Tuesday in a new assessment of the capability of a country that conducted its fourth nuclear test this year.

"We believe they have accomplished miniaturization of a nuclear warhead to mount it on a Rodong missile," said the South Korean official, who has knowledge of South Korea's assessment of the North's nuclear program. The official spoke to a small group of reporters on condition of anonymity.

SEE ALSO: The deadliest, underfunded diseases in the US

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said last month that his country had miniaturized nuclear warheads to mount on ballistic missiles. It was his first direct statement of a claim often made in state media though never independently verified.

The Rodong missile can fire a 1 tonne (1,100 lb) warhead a distance of up to 2,000 km (1,250 miles), the official said. That would put all of South Korea, most of Japan and parts of Russia and China in range.

"We believe they have the ability to mount a nuclear warhead on a Rodong. Whether they will fire it like that is a political decision," said the official.

There was no direct evidence that the North has successfully mounted a warhead on such a missile, the South Korean official said, declining to discuss the basis for the change in assessment.

The United States, South Korea's staunch ally, concurred.

"We know that they've said they have that capability, and we have to take them at their word," Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said at a briefing for reporters on Tuesday. "But we have not seen them demonstrate it, so we don't share that assessment necessarily but we do accept what they say as a threat we need to take as real."

RELATED: Tension mounts between South and North Korea

35 PHOTOS
Tension between South and North Korea
See Gallery
North Korea can put nuclear warhead on mid-range missile: South
A man watches a TV screen showing a file footage of the missile launch conducted by North Korea, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, March 18, 2016. North Korea defied U.N. resolutions by firing a medium-range ballistic missile into the sea on Friday, Seoul and Washington officials said, days after its leader Kim Jong Un ordered weapons tests linked to its pursuit of a long-range nuclear missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. The letters on the screen read " The missile puts all of South Korea and part of Japan within striking distance." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
An anti-war protester clenches his fist during a rally opposing the joint military exercises, dubbed Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, between the U.S. and South Korea, near the government complex in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, March 19, 2016. North Korea ignored U.N. resolutions by firing a medium-range ballistic missile into the sea on Friday, Seoul and Washington officials said, days after its leader Kim Jong Un ordered weapons tests linked to its pursuit of a long-range nuclear missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. The letters at a card read " Stop military exercise". (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
People watch a TV screen showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, March 15, 2016. North Korean leader Kim has warned of impending tests of a nuclear warhead explosion and ballistic missiles capable of carrying atomic warheads, state media reported Tuesday, in an escalation of threats against Seoul and Washington. The screen reads "Nuclear technology." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean army soldiers ride a K-1 tank during the annual exercise with their U.S. counterparts in Paju, near the border with North Korea, Thursday, March 10, 2016. North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea on Thursday, South Korea's military said, a likely show of anger at continuing springtime war games by rivals Washington and Seoul and another ratcheting up of hostility on the already anxious Korean Peninsula. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Anti-war protesters stage a rally opposing the joint military exercises, dubbed Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, between the U.S. and South Korea, near the government complex in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, March 19, 2016. North Korea ignored U.N. resolutions by firing a medium-range ballistic missile into the sea on Friday, Seoul and Washington officials said, days after its leader Kim Jong Un ordered weapons tests linked to its pursuit of a long-range nuclear missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. The letters at banners, read" Stop military exercise". (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
People watch a TV screen showing a file footage of a missile launch conducted by North Korea, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, March 18, 2016. North Korea defied U.N. resolutions by firing a medium-range ballistic missile into the sea on Friday, Seoul and Washington officials said, days after its leader Kim Jong Un ordered weapons tests linked to its pursuit of a long-range nuclear missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. The letters on the screen read " North Korea fired a missile against the ongoing joint military exercises,dubbed Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, between South Korea and the United States.: (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
FILE - In this March 10, 2016, file photo, U.S. Army soldiers conduct the annual exercise with their South Korean counterparts in Pocheon, near the border with North Korea. North Korea said Saturday, March 12, 2016, its military is ready to pre-emptively attack and "liberate" the South in its latest outburst against the annual joint military drills by the United States and South Korea. In a statement carried through state media, the General Staff of the North's Korean People's Army said its frontline units are prepared to strike first if they see signs that American and South Korean troops involved in the drills were attempting to invade the North. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)
People watch a TV news program showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with superimposed letters that read: "North Korea has made nuclear warheads small enough to fit on ballistic missiles" at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, March 9, 2016. The official North Korean news agency says the communist country's leader Kim met his nuclear scientists for a briefing and declared he was greatly pleased that warheads had been miniaturized for use on ballistic missiles. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean protesters shout slogans during a rally criticizing U.N. sanction on North Korea and upcoming joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, March 5, 2016. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered his military on standby for nuclear strikes at any time, state media reported Friday, an escalation in rhetoric targeting rivals Seoul and Washington that may not yet reflect the country's actual nuclear capacity. The banners read " Stop the joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea," and "Park Geun-hye, step down." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
North Korean defectors wearing masks of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attend a rally against North Korea's rocket launch and nuclear test in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. South Korea has cut off power and water supplies to a factory park in North Korea, officials said Friday, a day after the North deported all South Korean workers there and ordered a military takeover of the complex that had been the last major symbol of cooperation between the rivals. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A woman poses for a souvenir photo in front of ribbons hanging on a wire fence for the reunification of the two Koreas at the Imjingak Pavilion near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. South Korea has cut off power and water supplies to a factory park in North Korea, officials said Friday, a day after the North deported all South Korean workers there and ordered a military takeover of the complex that had been the last major symbol of cooperation between the rivals. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Transmission towers supplying power to the Kaesong Industrial Complex from South Korea, are seen on a foggy and rainy day after South Korea cut off power, in Paju, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. South Korea has cut off power and water supplies to a factory park in North Korea, officials said Friday, a day after the North deported all South Korean workers there and ordered a military takeover of the complex that had been the last major symbol of cooperation between the rivals. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Tourists take their souvenir photos in front of ribbons hanging on a wire fence wishing for the reunification of the two Koreas at the Imjingak Pavilion near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. South Korea has cut off power and water supplies to a factory park in North Korea, officials said Friday, a day after the North deported all South Korean workers there and ordered a military takeover of the complex that had been the last major symbol of cooperation between the rivals. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Tourists take their souvenir photos with a directional sign showing the distance to North Korea's Kaesong city and South Korea's capital Seoul at the Imjingak Pavilion near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. South Korea has cut off power and water supplies to a factory park in North Korea, officials said Friday, a day after the North deported all South Korean workers there and ordered a military takeover of the complex that had been the last major symbol of cooperation between the rivals. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
One of owners who run a factory in the suspended inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex, covers his face with his hands during an emergency meeting, held by the council of South Korean companies operating in the industrial park, in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. North Korea on Thursday ordered a military takeover of a factory park that had been the last major symbol of cooperation with South Korea, calling Seoul's earlier suspension of operations at the jointly run facility as punishment for the North's recent rocket launch a "dangerous declaration of war."(AP Photo/Ahnn Young-joon)
South Korean vehicles pass near the military barricade as a soldier, right, stands in the foggy and rainy morning at Unification Bridge near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. North Korea on Thursday ordered a military takeover of a factory park that had been the last major symbol of cooperation with South Korea, calling Seoul's earlier suspension of operations at the jointly run facility as punishment for the North's recent rocket launch a "dangerous declaration of war." (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
South Korean Army soldiers walk on a foggy and rainy morning at Unification Bridge near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. North Korea on Thursday ordered a military takeover of a factory park that had been the last major symbol of cooperation with South Korea, calling Seoul's earlier suspension of operations at the jointly run facility as punishment for the North's recent rocket launch a "dangerous declaration of war." (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
South Korean Army military polices check the vehicles on a foggy and rainy morning at Unification Bridge near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. North Korea on Thursday ordered a military takeover of a factory park that had been the last major symbol of cooperation with South Korea, calling Seoul's earlier suspension of operations at the jointly run facility as punishment for the North's recent rocket launch a "dangerous declaration of war." (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
South Korean Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo speaks in a televised press conference, as owners watch it during an emergency meeting held by the council of South Korean companies operating in the inter-Korean Kaesong industrial complex, in Seoul, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. North Korea on Thursday ordered a military takeover of a factory park that had been the last major symbol of cooperation with South Korea, calling Seoul's earlier suspension of operations at the jointly run facility as punishment for the North's recent rocket launch a "dangerous declaration of war."(AP Photo/Ahnn Young-joon)
South Korean owners who run a factory in the suspended inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex, attend an emergency meeting held by the council of South Korean companies operating in the industrial park, in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. North Korea on Thursday ordered a military takeover of the factory park that had been the last major symbol of cooperation with South Korea, calling Seoul's earlier suspension of operations at the jointly run facility as punishment for the North's recent rocket launch a "dangerous declaration of war."(AP Photo/Ahnn Young-joon)
South Korean owners who run factories in the suspended inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex, attend an emergency meeting in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. North Korea on Thursday ordered a military takeover of a factory park that had been the last major symbol of cooperation with South Korea, calling Seoul's earlier suspension of operations at the jointly run facility as punishment for the North's recent rocket launch a "dangerous declaration of war."(AP Photo/Ahnn Young-joon)
In this Feb. 11, 2016, photo, power supply towers are seen in Paju, near the border with North Korea, South Korea. South Korea has cut off power and water supplies to a factory park in North Korea, officials said Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, a day after the North deported all South Korean workers there and ordered a military takeover of the complex that had been the last major symbol of cooperation between the rivals.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean business men return from North Korea's joint Kaesong Industrial Complex at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. North Korea on Thursday ordered a military takeover of a factory park that had been the last major symbol of cooperation with South Korea, calling Seoul's earlier suspension of operations at the jointly run facility as punishment for the North's recent rocket launch a "dangerous declaration of war."(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Koreans holding umbrellas wait for their companies' vehicles returning from North Korea's joint Kaesong Industrial Complex after crossing the Unification Bridge, near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. North Korea on Thursday ordered a military takeover of a factory park that had been the last major symbol of cooperation with South Korea, calling Seoul's earlier suspension of operations at the jointly run facility as punishment for the North's recent rocket launch a "dangerous declaration of war." (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
South Korean Army soldiers patrol at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. North Korea on Thursday ordered a military takeover of a factory park that was the last major symbol of cooperation with South Korea, saying Seoul's suspension of operations at the jointly run facility was a "dangerous declaration of war." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A man watches a television news program reporting about the recent rocket launch by North Korea at the Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. Under the gaze of armed soldiers, large white trucks streamed across the world's most armed border Thursday as South Korean workers on Thursday began shutting down a jointly run industrial park in North Korea. The South's suspension will end, at least temporarily, the Koreas' last major cooperation project as punishment over Pyongyang's recent rocket launch. The letters read: "North, Long range missile launch." (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
A South Korean man holding a crossed North Korean flag shouts slogans among placards with crossed portraits of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pasted with the radiation warning symbol during an anti-North Korea rally in downtown Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. Under the gaze of armed soldiers, large white trucks streamed across the world's most armed border Thursday as South Korean workers on Thursday began shutting down a jointly run industrial park in North Korea. The South's suspension will end, at least temporarily, the Koreas' last major cooperation project as punishment over Pyongyang's recent rocket launch. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Pictures of North Korean flags, the North's leader Kim Jong Un and North's missiles are burned by anti-North Korea protesters during a rally in downtown Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. Under the gaze of armed soldiers, large white trucks streamed across the world's most armed border Thursday as South Korean workers on Thursday began shutting down a jointly run industrial park in North Korea. The South's suspension will end, at least temporarily, the Koreas' last major cooperation project as punishment over Pyongyang's recent rocket launch.(AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
South Korean vehicles returning from North Korea's joint Kaesong Industrial Complex pass the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. South Korean workers on Thursday began shutting down a jointly run industrial park in North Korea, a move that will end, at least temporarily, the Koreas' last major cooperation project as punishment over Pyongyang's recent rocket launch. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean Army soldiers patrol at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. South Korean workers on Thursday began shutting down a jointly run industrial park in North Korea, a move that will end, at least temporarily, the Koreas' last major cooperation project as punishment over Pyongyang's recent rocket launch. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A South Korean Army soldier stands guard at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. South Korean workers on Thursday began shutting down a jointly run industrial park in North Korea, a move that will end, at least temporarily, the Koreas' last major cooperation project as punishment over Pyongyang's recent rocket launch. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A visitor looks at a map of the Korean peninsula at the exhibition hall of the unification observatory in Paju, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016. South Korea says it will suspend the operations at a joint industrial park with North Korea in response to the North's recent rocket launch. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
A visitor looks at the map of Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea at its showroom at the unification observatory in Paju, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016. South Korea says it will suspend the operations at a joint industrial park with North Korea in response to the North's recent rocket launch. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Visitors use binoculars to see the North Korean territory from the unification observatory in Paju, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016. South Korea said Wednesday that it would suspend operations at a joint industrial park with North Korea in response to the North's recent rocket launch, the first time in the park's decade of operation that Seoul has halted work there. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

For decades, North Korea and South Korea have faced off against each other. An armistice ended the fighting in the Korean 1950-53 civil war but there was no peace treaty.

The South's conservative president, Park Geun-hye, has reversed a policy of trying to engage the North in dialogue and has instead adopted a hard line against it, particularly since the North conducted its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 and a month later launched a long-range rocket putting an object into space orbit.

The test and launch prompted the U.N. Security Council to impose new sanctions.

South Korea has previously said North Korea had made progress in its efforts to miniaturize a nuclear warhead but the capability was incomplete. South Korea's Defence Ministry said on Tuesday that assessment remained the military's position.

Rodong missiles, developed from Soviet-era Scud missiles, make up the bulk of the North's short- and medium-range missile arsenal with an estimated stockpile of 200.

Experts have predicted that the delivery vehicle for the North's first nuclear warhead would be the medium-range Rodong missile, rather than an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which the North has yet to test.

Despite threats to strike the mainland United States, the North is seen as several years away from building an ICBM that can carry a nuclear warhead.

Experts have previously said a functioning mid-range nuclear missile would need the technology to overcome the stress of launch and re-entry and to strike the target with precision, which requires repeated testing.

The North fired a Rodong missile in March. It flew about 800 km (500 miles) into the sea, in the first such launch since two Rodongs were fired in 2014.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners