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North Korea Able to Miniaturize Nukes: DOD Intel Arm

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, on left on Friday during a meeting in Seoul with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, said North Korea would never be accepted as a nuclear power (AP Photo/Paul Richard). U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, on left on Friday during a meeting in Seoul with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, said North Korea would never be accepted as a nuclear power (AP Photo/Paul Richard).

The U.S. Defense Department's spy agency has "moderate confidence" that North Korea has acquired the ability to miniaturize nuclear warheads so they can be fitted to ballistic missiles, a conclusion that is not supported by other branches of the U.S. government or by South Korea.

The revelation from the Defense Intelligence Agency was delivered on Thursday by U.S. Representative Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), who read aloud at a House hearing the unclassified findings of a classified assessment prepared for top Obama officials and lawmakers, the New York Times reported. 

The DIA analysis emphasized that the "reliability will be low" for a North Korean nuclear-tipped ballistic missile. Just because the North might have figured out how to build compact warheads does not mean it has also improved the aim of its missiles or developed a re-entry vehicle strong enough to withstand the trip back through Earth's atmosphere -- advances necessary for a reliable nuclear ballistic missile.

Responding to the disclosure on Thursday, the nation's top intelligence official said the DIA finding did not reflect agreement on the question by all U.S. intelligence services. "North Korea has not yet demonstrated the full range of capabilities necessary for a nuclear-armed missile," National Intelligence Director James Clapper said in provided comments.

Pentagon spokesman George Little added that "it would be inaccurate to suggest that the North Korean regime has fully tested, developed or demonstrated the kinds of nuclear capabilities referenced in the passage."

The Defense Intelligence Agency has been wrong before in its WMD assessments. Most notably, it asserted strongly 10 years ago that Iraq possessed nuclear arms.

An anonymous U.S. official told Reuters that the section of the report cited by Lamborn was mistakenly marked unclassified when it should have been classified.

The South Korean Defense Ministry on Friday pushed back against the DIA finding, according to Reuters. "Our military's assessment is that the North has not yet miniaturized," spokesman Kim Min-seok said to reporters. "North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests but there is doubt whether it is at the stage where they can reduce the weight and miniaturize to mount on a missile."

The White House and Secretary of State John Kerry delivered similar messages on Friday.

"North Korea has not demonstrated the capability to deploy a nuclear-armed missile," White House spokeswman Jay Carney said in a Reuters report.

In Seoul on Friday, Kerry lashed out at Pyongyang for its recent  threats of nuclear missile attacks on South Korea and the United States, Reuters separately reported.

"The rhetoric we are hearing from North Korea is simply unacceptable by any standard," the U.S. foreign policy chief said. "We are all united in the fact that North Korea will not be accepted as a nuclear power."

Kerry warned it would be a "huge mistake" for Pyongyang to carry out a missile test, the Associated Press reported. The North is believed to have moved at least two intermediate-range Musudan missiles to its each coast, along with shorter-range Scud and Nodong missiles, according to recent reporting.

Further provocations by North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un "will further isolate his country and further isolate his people who are desperate for food and not missile launches," according to Kerry.

He added further warnings to the North and called on China to take greater steps to rein in its neigborhing ally.

"TheUnited States will, if needed, defend our allies and defend ourselves," Kerry said in a Washington Post article. “Kim Jong Un needs to understand, as I think he probably does, what the outcome of the conflict would be,” he added.

North Korean media on Friday announced the coming creation of a new atomic agency that will produce weapon-grade nuclear materials, the Yonhap News Agency reported.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday said his government would support the reinvigoration of long-paralyzed multinational talks aimed at permanently closing the North's nuclear weapons program, AP reported. The aid-for-denuclearization talks encompass China, Japan, both Koreas, Russia, and the United States; negotiations last took place in late 2008.

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