Pyongyang: North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has posed for photos with what he claims is the country’s first mini thermo-nuclear warhead.
As Pyongyang continued to talk up its ability to carry out a nuclear strike on the USA and South Korea, Kim insisted his country has made a significant breakthrough.
His comments came a day after the North’s powerful National Defence Commission threatened pre-emptive nuclear attacks on South Korea and the US mainland, as Seoul and Washington kicked off joint military exercises.
While the North has boasted of making mini warheads before, this is the first time Kim has made the claims himself.
Experts see mini warheads as a game-changing step towards a credible North Korean nuclear threat to the US mainland.
“The nuclear warheads have been standardised to be fit for ballistic missiles by miniaturising them,” Kim noted during a visit with nuclear technicians that was reported by state media.
Military tensions have surged in the region since the North carried out its fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range rocket launch last month with South Korean forces massing at the border with its neighbour.
The UN Security Council responded by imposing tough new sanctions last week, which Pyongyang has condemned and labelled as part of a US-led conspiracy to bring down Kim’s regime by force.
South Korea’s defence ministry was sceptical over the photo of Kim posing with the missile, saying its own assessment was that North Korea had “not yet secured miniaturised nuclear warheads”.
The miniaturisation issue is key because, while North Korea is known to have a small stockpile of nuclear weapons, its ability to deliver them accurately to a chosen target on the tip of a ballistic missile has been a subject of heated debate.
North Korea’s claim to have successfully tested an H-bomb in January was greeted with scepticism at the time as the estimated yield was seen as far too low for a full-fledged thermo-nuclear device.
However, weapons experts have suggested it may have been a “boosted” fission device, which makes more efficient use of nuclear material and can be made smaller without sacrificing yield.