North Korea claims ‘minimum’ nuclear warheads have been built

Image copyright EPA Image caption A North Korean official says Pyongyang has become one of the world’s leading nuclear powerhouses North Korea has called the United States and the UN security council a “deadly”…

North Korea claims 'minimum' nuclear warheads have been built

Image copyright EPA Image caption A North Korean official says Pyongyang has become one of the world’s leading nuclear powerhouses

North Korea has called the United States and the UN security council a “deadly” body and blamed it for increasing the danger of a new nuclear war by “tampering with a dangerous time bomb”.

In a statement released through the North’s state media KCNA, officials also claimed they had already produced enough nuclear fuel for a “minimum” five weapons.

The government has always refused to confirm this claim, or confirm earlier reports it was trying to build a warhead small enough to fit onto a missile.

The national address comes just days after the defence minister held a surprise visit to Pyongyang and visited the Punggye-ri nuclear test site.

The visit was first reported on Saturday by Japan’s Sankei Shimbun newspaper.

Image copyright KCNA Image caption Sankei Shimbun reported that the visit came amid concerns over North Korea’s nuclear programme

“Right now, the epicenter of thermonuclear war is very near to us,” KCNA said.

“The security, peace and welfare of the whole mankind will be guaranteed by eradicating the hostile forces’ ultimate threat to the dignity and survival of the Korean nation, no matter how arduous the journey may be.”

The claim is likely to be music to the ears of hardline Trump administration figures, who have increasingly expressed fears that Kim Jong-un is intent on developing nuclear-tipped missiles able to reach the US mainland, or in Pyongyang’s case US bases in Japan.

But the statement also provides an opportunity for Kim to demonstrate his ability to maintain a domestic and international image for the latter part of his rule, as South Korea holds presidential elections on 9 May, two weeks before the US national election.

The official said there was no point talking to the US and UN security council – which imposed new sanctions on Pyongyang – “unless they accede to our demand of stopping the nuclear test and missile launch provocation”.

“However, for the United States and the United Nations to seek dialogue is a meaningless trick only meant to commit themselves to unconditional surrender,” the statement added.

‘Miniaturised and re-assemble’

The North’s test of what it said was a hydrogen bomb sent shockwaves around the world and prompted a major escalation in tensions between Pyongyang and Washington, Seoul and Tokyo.

The US, South Korea and its allies have been on high alert, with nuclear-capable US bombers operating off the Korean peninsula.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo says Washington is ready to talk to North Korea without preconditions and only after Pyongyang halts its nuclear weapons programme.

North Korea’s threat to walk away from six-party talks, the basis of US policy, if talks are not held was made in a statement in February, with Pyongyang claiming the US had used economic sanctions to hinder the talks.

“We have officially confirmed and self-reported to the United Nations, in front of the world, that our nuclear force is now a potent all-powerful deterrent with minimum and miniaturised means of delivery,” KCNA quoted an unnamed senior aide as saying.

Mr Kim’s regime has previously said they have achieved the miniaturisation of nuclear warheads – a claim later confirmed by the UN nuclear watchdog IAEA – but has given no indication that they have yet mastered the entire process.

KCNA said North Korea has “effectively mastered” an advanced computerised miniaturisation programme with a “small and light” atomic bomb capable of being mounted on missiles that “feed into a single rocket”.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption North Korea said it will not resume nuclear tests unless the US and UN Security Council end sanctions

The statement added that Pyongyang has “taken the first steps” towards manufacture of warheads using “electro-magnetic cutting and printing technology”.

It added that “special additives”, such as nuclear, could be mixed into the materials “to increase nuclear yield”.

KCNA also said the security of the Korean nation and its nuclear programme is “vital” to the maintenance of peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia.

No one was available at North Korea’s embassy in London to comment on the KCNA statement.

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