American spy satellites have found what looks like an advanced nuclear testing range in North Korea, the Telegraph reports.
American intelligence officials now believe that North Korea is developing the technology to make nuclear warheads small enough to fit atop the country’s growing arsenal of missiles, potentially putting Tokyo and American troops based in Japan at risk, according to officials who have received the intelligence reports.
An intelligence assessment, which has been shared with Japan, South Korea and other East Asian nations, identifies a previously unknown range of the type needed to produce a nuclear missile warhead according to the New York Times. The new testing capability does not mean North Korea can actually build a small weapon, but it suggests that the North Koreans are moving to combine their two most advanced weapons projects: nuclear technology and missile technology.
As Telegraph points out such uncertainty leads to a further cause for alarm: the outside world’s reliance on remote sensors and satellite images to track what is going on inside the paranoid totalitarian state.
North Korea, unlike Iraq, has made no secret of its plan to develop nuclear weapons. Now, administration officials say they fear that the North is on the verge of producing five or six new weapons, some of which might be miniaturized.
“This would give them the range they never had before, and the chance to spread their threat far beyond South Korea,” said a senior Asian official, noting that about 60,000 American troops are based in Japan.
Without question, though, North Korea’s abilities greatly outstrip anything Iraq had in the last decade, and the North’s program is probably several years ahead of Iran’s.