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NKorea a few years away from making nuclear warhead: minister

AFP | October 13 2006

North Korea is believed to be developing nuclear warheads for its missiles but needs "a few more years" before it can produce them, South Korean Defence Minister Yoon Kwang-Ung said Friday.

"Intelligence authorities believe North Korea has made primitive nuclear weapons," Yoon told a closed parliamentary hearing, according to a defence ministry spokesman.

"As North Korea has been developing low-grade nuclear weapons, I assume North Korea at the next stage will be moving in the direction of miniaturising weapons to fit them into missiles."

Yoon added: "It will take a few more years for the North to deploy nuclear weapons for wartime use or miniaturise them to fit them onto missiles."

Yoon also said South Korea would not become a nuclear-armed country even though North Korea's first nuclear test on Monday breached a 1992 inter-Korean declaration on making the peninsula nuclear-free.

Following the declaration, 1,700 US nuclear weapons were pulled out of the South.

"It's true that you cannot cope with nuclear weapons with conventional weapons," Yoon said.

"However, it is realistic for us to rely on the nuclear umbrella provided by the United States rather than making nuclear weapons, as we have already committed ourselves to the denuclearization declaration."

"The South Korea-US military alliance serves as a deterrent," Yoon said.

The South in the 1970s scrapped its own programme to make nuclear weapopns under strong US pressure. The US has stationed tens of thousands of troops in the South since the 1950-53 Korean War.


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