By MATTHEW PENNINGTON
and DEB RIECHMANN,
WASHINGTON (AP) — North Korea may
have successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit
inside its missiles, passing a key threshold in becoming a full-fledged
nuclear power, according to a Japanese defense paper and a U.S. media
The U.N. Security Council this
weekend slapped its toughest sanctions yet on North Korea over its latest
test of a ballistic missile that could be used to deliver a nuclear weapon.
Despite the rapid tempo of these tests, uncertainty has lingered over the
isolated nation's ability to couple such a missile with a nuclear device.
Those uncertainties appear to be receding.
Japan's Defense Ministry concluded
in an annual white paper released Tuesday that "it is possible that North
Korea has achieved the miniaturization of nuclear weapons and has developed
nuclear warheads." Japan, a key U.S. ally, is also a potential target of
North Korean aggression.
And The Washington Post reported
Tuesday that U.S. intelligence officials assess that a decade after North
Korea's first nuclear test explosion, Pyongyang has produced nuclear weapons
for ballistic missile delivery, including by intercontinental missiles — the
type capable of reaching the continental U.S.
The Post story, citing unnamed
U.S. intelligence officials, said the confidential analysis was completed
last month by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. The U.S. also calculated
last month that North Korea has up to 60 nuclear weapons, the Post said,
more than double most assessments by independent experts.
Officials at the agency would not
comment Tuesday on the report. The Office of the Director of National
Intelligence could not immediately be reached for comment.
Alarm in Washington over North
Korean leader Kim Jong Un's pursuit of a nuclear capability has intensified
in the past month after the North conducted two tests of intercontinental
ballistic missiles for the first time last month.