N.Korea can mount nukes on mid-range missiles – S.Korea

Ability to mount miniaturized nuclear device would bolster credible deterrent
John G. Grisafi
North Korea may now be capable of mounting a nuclear warhead on a medium-range ballistic missile, the New York Times and Reuters reported Wednesday, citing an unnamed South Korean official.The South Korean government assessed that North Korea now has the ability to sufficiently miniaturize a nuclear device and mount it on a medium-range ballistic missile, such as the North’s Rodong-1 missile.
North Korea announced through its state media on March 9 that it had successfully “standardized” a miniaturized nuclear device, becoming able to mount it onto a ballistic missile. The North’s state media published photographs of leader Kim Jong Un with a spherical nuclear device – presumably a mockup – as well as Hwasong-13 (KN-08) and Rodong ballistic missiles and a diagram of a nuclear warhead within a re-entry vehicle.
Pyongyang has claimed the ability to miniaturize a nuclear weapon since at least 2015. Previously, the South Korean government has doubted North Korea’s technical capability to miniaturize a nuclear weapon. The United States military, however, has believed since at least 2014 that North Korea may have the technical capability to miniaturize nuclear device, even if it had not yet done so.
North Korea has long asserted that it needs nuclear weapons as a deterrent against a perceived nuclear threat from the United States. In an editorial published on NK News, Kim Chol Min, a researcher at the DPRK’s Institute for Disarmament and Peace, said that the “DPRK has become the full-fledged power possessing the hydrogen bomb by concentrating its efforts on the building of nuclear weapons and realized the miniaturization and standardization of nuclear warheads mountable on a ballistic rocket.”
The Rodong-1 missile, an indigenously produced North Korean ballistic missile developed from Scud technology, has an estimated maximum range of between 1,000 and 1,500 kilometers. This makes it capable of striking all of South Korea as well as parts of Japan – including Tokyo – and parts of China – including Beijing. It is estimated that the Rodong-1 can carry a payload of greater than 1 ton.
If Pyongyang can successfully equip a functioning nuclear device on a missile that can reach such key locations, it will significantly bolster the credibility and potential threat of North Korea’s nuclear deterrent.
North Korea test launched two Rodong-1 missiles on March 18. The two ballistic missiles were launched from Sukchon, South Phyongan Province, on North Korea’s west coast, about 800 kilometers across the country and into the Sea of Japan (known in Korea as the East Sea).
The recognition by South Korea of the North’s potential to miniaturize a nuclear device and mount it on a rocket is a sign that Seoul is seriously considering the North Korean nuclear threat. Recently, Pyongyang has made efforts to demonstrate a credible nuclear deterrent capability. North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test on January 6, which Pyongyang promptly reported as a successful test of a hydrogen bomb.
(John G. Grisafi is an analyst and Korean linguist from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Having previously worked as an analyst for the United States Army in South Korea and studied Korean at the Defense Language Institute, he is now majoring in East Asian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.) – NK News