44° Good Afternoon
44° Good Afternoon

Officials downplay N. Korea's nuclear reach

WASHINGTON -- White House and other U.S. and South Korean officials sought Friday to tamp down concern over an intelligence report suggesting North Korea could arm a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead.

White House spokesman Jay Carney says Pyongyang has not demonstrated the capability to launch such a nuclear-armed missile.

Portions of a Defense Intelligence Agency report that became public during a congressional hearing Thursday expressed "moderate confidence" that North Korea knows how to deliver a nuclear weapon on a ballistic missile. The range was not estimated.

In Seoul, Secretary of State John Kerry said that it is "inaccurate" to suggest the North has mastered how to shrink a nuclear warhead to the size that would fit on an intercontinental ballistic missile.

"We do not operate under the assumption that they have that fully tested and available capacity," he said. "But, obviously, they have conducted a nuclear test, so there's some kind of device. That is very different from miniaturization and delivery."

South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said, "Our military's assessment is that North Korea has not yet miniaturized" a nuclear device.

The DIA report, written in March, was in line with a statement two years earlier by the agency's director, Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, to a Senate panel. "The North may now have several plutonium-based nuclear warheads that it can deliver by ballistic missiles and aircraft as well as by unconventional means," he said then.

David Albright, a North Korea expert at the Institute for Science and International Security, wrote in February he believes North Korea can put a nuclear warhead on a shorter-range Nodong missile with a range of about 800 miles, far enough to reach Japan.

News Photos and Videos