DPRK estimated to have 40 kilograms of plutonium

According to Yonhap:

North Korea is believed to have produced some 40 kilograms of plutonium, the main ingredient of an atomic bomb, and to be miniaturizing nuclear weapons to improve their mobility, South Korea’s defense minister said Tuesday.

“We believe that North Korea owns 40kg of plutonium and continues attempts to miniaturize atomic weapons,” Defense Minister Kim Tae-young told lawmakers.

Kim’s assessment on North Korea’s plutonium stockpile is about 10kg less than what the United States estimates. The U.S. believes North Korea had produced about 50kg of the weapons material, which experts say would be enough for six to eight atomic bombs.

Kim said North Korea’s ballistic missiles could be used as “useful means” to carry nuclear bombs along with its fleet of bombers.

North Korea, which conducted two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, has shown no signs that it owns a working nuclear bomb.

Asked about the possibility of another nuclear test by North Korea, Kim replied, “There is a possibility, but no clear signs (of a third nuclear test) have been observed yet.”

South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities have been keeping a close watch on the movements of vehicles and personnel at the North’s previous nuclear test site, Kim said.

North Korea has also made progress in its uranium enrichment program, which could give Pyongyang a second way to develop nuclear weapons in addition to the plutonium-based program, Kim said.

“I think it’s quite possible for North Korea to build nuclear weapons through the uranium enrichment program,” the defense minister said.

North Korea officially quit six-party talks, a forum aimed at ending its nuclear development in exchange for incentives, in April last year and conducted the second nuclear test a month later.

The six-party talks, which also involve South Korea, China, the United States, Japan and Russia, were last held two years ago. Chances of their resumption have been dim after Seoul blamed Pyongyang for sinking one of its warships in March.

North Korea has been beckoning other members recently, saying that it is willing to rejoin the forum. South Korea demands that the communist neighbor shows in action its willingness to denuclearize and apologize for the ship sinking.

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N. Korea estimated to have 40 kilograms of plutonium: defense minister


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