Oh, joy: NoKo say they can miniaturize nuclear weapons

The U.S. military has suspected for some time that North Korea has been capable of miniaturizing a nuclear weapon so that it can fit atop a ballistic missile. Yesterday, a North Korean official bragged about it.


North Korea said Wednesday that it has the ability to miniaturize nuclear weapons, a key step toward building nuclear missiles.

Analysts and U.S. officials have said previously that they suspected Kim Jong Un's regime was capable of the technical feat, which is needed to fit a nuclear device on the tip of a ballistic missile.

"We have had the capability of miniaturizing nuclear warheads, as well as producing multiform weapons, for some time," the North Korean military said in a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

"We can also guarantee the accuracy not only of short-to-mid-range but also long-range rocket launches, for which we have had the technology for a long time," the statement said.

Pyongyang's announcement about miniaturization, the first time it has publicly made such a claim, tallies with some recent assessments from senior U.S. military officials.

U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the commander of U.S. forces in Korea, said in October that he thought North Korea was capable of miniaturizing a nuclear device.

And Adm. Bill Gortney, the commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command, told reporters last month that the U.S. military believed that Pyongyang could put a nuclear weapon on a road-mobile missile and "shoot it at the (U.S.) homeland."

Gortney added, though, that the United States doesn't think that the missile in question, the KN-08, has been tested. And he said he was confident U.S. defenses would be able to intercept any potential North Korean attack.

Gauging the progress of North Korea's nuclear weapons program is a tricky business. Kim Jong Un's regime generally cloaks its efforts in secrecy and occasionally trumpets claims of advances through propaganda outlets, leaving the rest of the world to try to join up the dots.

Analysts have said Kim Jong Un's regime may well already be able to fit nuclear warheads on ground-launched missiles that can reach South Korea and Japan.

I guess the president figured that North Korea was lonely, being the only rogue regime led by a paranoid fanatic having its finger on the nuclear button, and invited the Iranians to join it.

North Korea's missile technology is relatively primitive, but the North Koreans are certainly capable of launching a ballistic missile toward Japan and South Korea.  They can't threaten the U.S. – yet.  Their efforts at constructing an ICBM capable of hitting the United States have so far met with failure.  But they keep trying, and lord knows where they might be getting assistance.  China comes to mind, and Russia might be tempted to help the NoKos improve their ballistic missile technology. 

Given the rash of executions in North Korea recently, you have to wonder how firm Kim Jong-un's position is.  The idea that he might not be in complete control of their nuclear weapons is a truly frightening prospect, made doubly so by this latest development.