China warns NK nu­clear ar­se­nal ex­pand­ing: re­port

The China Post - - GUIDE POST -

Chi­nese nu­clear ex­perts be­lieve North Korea may al­ready have a nu­clear ar­se­nal of 20 war­heads and the ura­nium en­rich­ment ca­pac­ity to dou­ble that fig­ure by next year, the Wall Street Jour­nal re­ported Thurs­day.

The es­ti­mate, which the Jour­nal said was re­layed to U.S. nu­clear spe­cial­ists in a closed-door meet­ing in Fe­bru­ary, is sig­nif­i­cantly higher than any pre­vi­ously known Chi­nese as­sess­ment.

It also ex­ceeds re­cent es­ti­mates by U.S. ex­perts which put the North’s cur­rent ar­se­nal at be­tween 10 and 16 nu­clear weapons.

A lead­ing ex­pert on North Korea’s nu­clear pro­gram, Siegfried Hecker, who at­tended the Fe­bru­ary meet­ing, said a size­able North Korean stock­pile would only com­pound the chal­lenge the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity faces in per­suad­ing Py­ongyang to de­nu­cle­arize.

“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,” Hecker told the Jour­nal.

The Chi­nese es­ti­mate re­flects grow­ing con­cern in Bei­jing about the nu­clear am­bi­tions of its er­rant ally, and is the lat­est in a se­ries of ex­pert as­sess­ments that sug­gest Py­ongyang is mov­ing faster down the nu­clear path than pre­vi­ously thought.

A re­cent re­port by U. S. re­searchers warned that North Korea ap­peared poised to ex­pand its nu­clear pro­gram over the next five years and, in a worst case sce­nario, could pos­sess 100 atomic arms by 2020.

North Korea car­ried out nu­clear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013, and has an ex­tremely ac­tive bal­lis­tic mis­sile devel­op­ment pro­gram, although ex­pert opin­ion is split on how much progress it has made.

In 2012, Py­ongyang demon­strated its rocket ca­pa­bil­i­ties by send­ing a satel­lite into or­bit, but it has yet to con­duct a test that would show it had mas­tered the re-en­try tech­nol­ogy re­quired for an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile (ICBM).

The other key ques­tion is how close the North is to be­ing able to minia­tur­ize a nu­clear de­vice that could be fit­ted on the tip of a mis­sile.

In a white pa­per pub­lished in Jan­uary, the South Korean de­fense min­istry said the North had al­ready taken its minia­tur­iza­tion tech­nol­ogy to a “sig­nif­i­cant” level.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Taiwan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.