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Expert: North Korea can make nuke warheads small enough for ICBM

This would be the final step towards developing a nuclear ICBM that can reach the U.S.

(National SentinelNational Security: A Stanford University professor and nuclear expert says he believes that North Korea is preparing for its sixth nuke weapons test and that Pyongyang has the technology to miniaturize a warhead enough to place atop an ICBM.

“North Korea has ample technical reason to test again as it moves toward developing a credible nuclear-tipped ICBM. The test site appears to be ready,” Siegfried Hecker, known for having a first-hand look at North Korea’s uranium-enrichment facility during a 2010 visit, told the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. “I believe the only thing that inhibits them from testing is the political fallout they would face, particularly from China and the new South Korean administration.”

His comments were reported by South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.

Hecker also noted he believes the North can mount nuclear warheads atop missiles that can reach all of South Korea and Japan. And he added that Pyongyang likely possesses enough plutonium and highly enriched uranium to manufacture 20-25 nuclear weapons.

“All estimates are to a large extent based on the observations my Stanford colleagues and I made during my last visit to Yongbyon in November 2010. To my knowledge, no outsiders have been in their nuclear complex since,” he said. “The rest of the estimate is based on indirect evidence — that is, satellite imagery, and what North Korea chooses to publicize, combined with modeling of their capabilities and acquisitions.”

He says U.S. President Donald J. Trump and new South Korea President Moon Jae-in must develop a unified strategy against the North.

“That voice should reflect the new South Korean president’s views on finding a diplomatic resolution,” he said. “I hope that the Trump administration will support President Moon, and that Pyongyang won’t pre-empt diplomacy with a nuclear or long-range missile test.”

He said Trump should send a diplomatic envoy to North Korea.

“There is a danger that overconfidence or miscalculation by Kim Jong-un, or an unpredictable reaction to a crisis, could result in a nuclear detonation. I also have serious concerns about a nuclear-weapon accident in North Korea, particularly if Pyongyang feels threatened and begins to deploy its nuclear arsenal,” he said.

 

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