North Korea's Kim Vows Another Nuclear Test in `Short Time'

  • Nation claims ballistic missile can re-enter atmosphere
  • Kim threat comes weeks before nuclear security summit in U.S.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged to detonate "in a short time" a nuclear warhead and test-launch a ballistic missile capable of carrying one, as he stepped up his defiance of tightening international sanctions over the country’s weapons program.

QuickTake North Korea’s Nukes

Kim made the vow after he watched a simulation of a rocket re-entering the atmosphere with a warhead, North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday without saying when the tests might take place. North Korea last week unveiled images of what it called a miniaturized nuclear warhead, with Kim vowing to hit back with a strike if his country is attacked by the U.S.

Tensions remain high on the Korean peninsula after North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and launched a long-range rocket last month, prompting the United Nations Security Council to adopt a new set of sanctions. Kim’s comments signal the new measures haven’t damped his ambition to develop a nuclear-tipped missile.

“North Korea will end up walking the path of self-destruction if it refuses to choose the path of change and maintains its irrational provocations and confrontation with the international community,” South Korean President Park Geun Hye said Tuesday at a cabinet meeting, according to the website of her office.

North Korea’s latest threat comes as the U.S. is conducting annual military exercises with South Korea, which the North has denounced as a dress rehearsal for war. North Korea tends to increase its rhetoric against the U.S. and South Korea during the annual drills that finish next month. Kim is also escalating the rhetoric as the Obama administration prepares to host a nuclear security summit drawing leaders from around the world later this month.

Earlier Tuesday, Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang Gyun said at a briefing that South Korea does not believe North Korea has the ability to create a missile capable of successfully re-entering the atmosphere, which would be necessary to be able to strike distant targets such as the U.S. The ministry last week asserted North Korea doesn’t have the technology to miniaturize nuclear warheads or launch a missile armed with one.

“There is enough open source evidence to take seriously the possibility that North Korea has developed a compact fission device,” Jeffrey Lewis, Director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said March 11 on 38 North, a Johns Hopkins University blog.

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