Intelligence analysts from both the United States and Japan have made the unsettling determination that North Korea has developed the technology to miniaturize nuclear warheads and fit them inside long-range missiles, much faster than anyone could have expected.
“It is conceivable that North Korea’s nuclear weapons program has already considerably advanced and it is possible that North Korea has already achieved the miniaturization of nuclear weapons and has acquired nuclear warheads,” Japanese analysts wrote in the country’s annual defense review, which was released Tuesday.
“Since last year, when it forcibly implemented two nuclear tests and more than 20 ballistic missile launches, the security threats have entered a new stage,” the paper continued.
U.S. analysts at the Defense Intelligence Agency prepared a confidential assessment last month that reached essentially the same conclusion, the Washington Post reported. The report claims that North Korea has nearly 60 nuclear devices, many times more than the small number of bombs that had previously been predicted.
Furthermore, analysts believe that some of these devices may have been miniaturized enough to fit on an intercontinental ballistic missile, which would corroborate boasts by North Korea to that effect that were widely mocked at the time. Now, North Korea must develop heat shielding technology to protect the warheads from re-entry in order to mount a successful attack.
The Japanese government appears to be taking the threat seriously, implementing its first civilian air-raid drills since the end of World War II, the BBC reported. The drills are part of a program that was tested in certain parts of Japan to show residents how to react to a North Korean missile attack, planned or accidental.