Chinese nuclear experts suggest that North Korea currently possesses twenty nuclear warheads, and the nuclear enrichment capacity to double this number as early as 2016.
The figure suggested by the Chinese experts is considerably higher than any other previous assessment. Earlier, the US had estimated that the communist state’s nuclear arsenal could be anywhere between ten to sixteen warheads.
The latest assessment could alarm Japan and South Korea, who are U.S. allies and could seek to create their own nuclear weapons in defense, in the light of North Korean nuclear proliferation. Further, British ambassador to North Korea warned that Pyongyang is prepared to launch an attack, the moment its national security is threatened.
Siegfried Hecker, a Stanford University professor and former head of the Los Alamos National Laboratory said, “I am concerned that with twenty warheads, they actually have a nuclear arsenal. The more they believe they have a fully functional nuclear arsenal and deterrent, the more difficult it’s going to be to walk them back from that.” Mr Hacker added that China now believes that North Korea has a greater domestic capacity to enrich uranium now.
When asked about the latest report issued by the nuclear experts, Hong Lei, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, said, “I did not have knowledge of this specific situation.” Mr Lei added, “We must persevere with denuclearization on the Korean peninsula, persevere in safeguarding peace and stability, and persevere in resolving the relevant issue through dialogue.”
Earlier this month, U.S. Admiral William Gortney, commander of the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, remarked that the U.S. military believed North Korea had the ability to miniaturize a warhead and mount it on a ballistic missile, although there had have been no missile tests so far.
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