North Korea plans new nuclear warhead test

North Korean leader says country will soon carry out nuclear warhead test, South Korea downplays possibility

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un talks with officials at the ballistic rocket launch drill of the Strategic Force of the Korean People's Army (KPA).

Updated Mar 15, 2016

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his country would soon conduct a nuclear warhead test and test launch ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, the official KCNA news agency reported on Tuesday.

Kim made the comments as he supervised a successful simulated test of atmospheric re-entry of a ballistic missile that measured the "thermodynamic structural stability of newly-developed heat-resisting materials," KCNA said.

"Declaring that a nuclear warhead explosion test and a test-fire of several kinds of ballistic rockets able to carry nuclear warheads will be conducted in a short time to further enhance the reliance of nuclear attack capability, he (Kim) instructed the relevant section to make prearrangement for them to the last detail," the agency said.

Meanwhile, South Korea's Defence Ministry said that it does not believe that North Korea has acquired missile re-entry technology.

"What North Korea announced today was North Korea's one-sided claim," Moon Sang gyun, the ministry spokesman said at a news briefing.

The report comes amid heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula as South Korean and US troops stage annual military exercises that Seoul has described as the largest ever. The North has issued belligerent statements almost daily, after coming under new United Nations sanctions.

The United Nations Security Council imposed a new resolution to tighten sanctions against the North after a nuclear test in January and the launch of a long-range rocket last month.

US and South Korean experts have said the general consensus was that North Korea had not yet successfully miniaturised a nuclear warhead to be mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile. More crucially, the consensus is that there have been no tests to prove it has mastered the re-entry technology needed to bring a payload back into the atmosphere.

Kim said last week that his country had indeed miniaturised a nuclear warhead, however.

The North, which has conducted four nuclear tests, also claims to have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb in January, but most experts said the blast was too small to back up the assertion.

The North also says the satellites it has launched into orbit are functioning successfully, although that has never been independently verified.

Rights abuse

UN investigator Marzuki Darusman on Monday called for leader Kim Jong Un and senior officials to be prosecuted for committing crimes against humanity

The United States is working with Japan and the European Union on a resolution to set up a "mechanism of accountability" aimed at holding North Korea's leadership liable for abuses, said King.

"But I think we need to be careful not to start at the top . Because if you start at the top, that's where you stop."

"One of the things that we need to do on accountability is to make sure and to make clear to the North Koreans as well that people at all levels are going to be considered," he added.

TRTWorld, Reuters