North Korea likely has miniature nuclear warheads, UN report finds

Nicola Smith
·2-min read
A test of weapons in an undisclosed location in North Korea in March - AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS
A test of weapons in an undisclosed location in North Korea in March - AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS

Several countries believe North Korea has likely developed miniaturised nuclear devices to fit into the warheads of its nuclear devices, a confidential new United Nations report has warned.

The report by an independent panel of experts monitoring UN sanctions, and seen by Reuters, said the unidentified countries believed the reclusive nation’s past six nuclear tests had likely helped it to develop the devices.

Although North Korea has not conducted a nuclear test since September 2017, the experts stressed that it was still pressing ahead with its nuclear weapons programme, despite three unprecedented meetings between Donald Trump, the US president, and Kim Jong-un, to negotiate its dismantlement.

“The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is continuing its nuclear programme, including the production of highly enriched uranium and construction of an experimental light water reactor. A Member State assessed that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is continuing production of nuclear weapons,” the report said.

Professor Vipin Narang, a nuclear proliferation expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explained on Twitter that the technology was not actually not 'miniaturized' warheads, which implies mini-nukes for backpacks or battlefield systems, but 'compact' warheads which implies an appropriate design for ballistic missiles.”

The development of the technology had been closely monitored by the South Korean military since at least 2018, said Colonel Moon Hong-sik, the defence ministry spokesperson, adding that Seoul was closely cooperating with Washington over the issue.

North Korea, which has faced UN sanctions since 2006 over its nuclear ambitions, has not responded to the charge.

Kim said last week there would be no more war as the country’s nuclear weapons guarantee its safety and future despite unabated outside pressure and military threats.

The North’s relations with the South and with the US have deteriorated since a failed summit between Kim and President Trump in February 2019 in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The UN report said one country, which it did not identify, assessed that North Korea “may seek to further develop miniaturisation in order to allow incorporation of technological improvements such as penetration aid packages or, potentially, to develop multiple warhead systems.”