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North Korea could miniaturize nuclear warheads faster, analyst says

SEOUL, April 1 (UPI) —North Korea could accelerate nuclear warhead miniaturization, a South Korean analyst said Friday.

Lee Chun-geun, a senior fellow at South Korea’s Science and Technology Policy Institute, a government think tank, said the North’s missiles could lead to shortening the amount of time required for miniaturization, Yonhap news agency reported.

North Korea has Rodong and Scud missiles, the analyst said, and if Pyongyang begins to develop a “triggering device,” miniaturization would be simplified.

There are still challenges to North Korea’s progress on weapons. Lee said there are significant differences in developing re-entry technology that could send a bomb back into the atmosphere, between warheads to be mounted on intercontinental ballistic missiles and short-range rockets.

There is no direct evidence North Korea has mastered re-entry technology, and development could take time.

In his statement at Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies, Lee said his findings indicated it’s likely the North conducted an “amplified nuclear test,” rather than a “successful” hydrogen bomb test – the announcement Pyongyang made in January.

North Korea was aiming for a powerful explosion but the nuclear fusion might not have been completely carried through, and the test could have been a failure, Lee said.

Chae Yeon-seok, a researcher at the South’s Korea Aerospace Research Institute, said at the same conference the missile used to launch the North’s satellite in February was identical to the rockets launched in 2012. The rocket combustion time was 120 seconds for each projectile, Chae said.

The weight of the satellites launched, however, has decreased from 220 pounds to most recently 150-180 pounds, Chae said.

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