Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Expert: N. Korea has several nuclear warheads

Expert: N. Korea has several nuclear warheads: SEOUL, South Korea — Nuclear-armed North Korea warned Japan on Tuesday that intervening in Pyongyang’s impending rocket launch would be considered an act of war.

North Korea says it will send a communications satellite into orbit on a multi-stage rocket between April 4 and 8. The U.S., South Korea and Japan think the communist regime is using the launch to test long-range missile technology, and they warn Pyongyang would face sanctions under a U.N. Security Council resolution banning the country from ballistic activity.

Japan has deployed battleships and Patriot missile interceptors off its northern coast to shoot down any rocket debris that the North has said might fall over the area.

Tokyo has said it is only protecting its territory and has no intention of trying to shoot down the rocket itself, but North Korea said it is not convinced and accused Japan of inciting militarism at home to justify developing a nuclear weapons program of its own.

If Japan tries to intercept the satellite, the North’s army “will consider this as the start of Japan’s war of reinvasion more than six decades after the Second World War and mercilessly destroy all its interceptor means and citadels with the most powerful military means,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday.

China, North Korea’s neighbor and often-estranged ally, continued to appeal for all the powers in the region to show restraint and “refrain from any action that would further complicate the situation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in Beijing.

But Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso said he is ready to pursue punishment by the Security Council if North Korea fires the rocket, which already is on the launch pad.

“It would be crucial for the international community to make concerted action,” Aso told a news conference after both houses of Japan’s parliament passed a resolution strongly urging the North to forego the launch.

Daniel Pinkston — a Seoul-based expert for the International Crisis Group think tank, which provides detailed analysis about North Korea — said the communist nation has two underground nuclear warhead storage facilities near bases for its medium-range Rodong missiles, which are capable of striking Japan. The North is believed to have five to eight warheads, he said.

Read the full story HERE at Air Force Times.

This just in from the London Telegraph that echos the previous post:

INTELLIGENCE agencies have obtained information that North Korea has assembled several nuclear warheads for its medium-range Rodong missiles capable of targeting Japan, an analyst says.

Daniel Pinkston, senior analyst with the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, said he had received the information from agencies he declined to identify.

"Intelligence agencies believe the North Koreans have assembled nuclear warheads for Rodong missiles, which are stored at underground facilities near the Rodong missile bases," Mr Pinkston said.

He said the agencies believe that probably five to eight warheads have been assembled.

Mr Pinkston said the agencies did not reveal the source of their information to him.

"It might be right, it might be wrong - but if others believe it is true, it has implications for the psychological aspects of deterrence," he said, describing the assessment as "quite significant".

In public at least, intelligence officials have not previously said that the communist North - which tested a nuclear weapon in 2006 - has the capability to manufacture nuclear warheads.

The North is preparing to test-fire its longest-range missile the Taepodong-2 within the next few days, but is not believed to have created any atomic warhead for this.

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