(2nd LD) N. Korea claims it has miniaturized nuke weapons
SEOUL, May 20 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Wednesday it has already made nuclear warheads small enough to fit on a missile, further escalating tensions sparked by its recent test-firing of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).
In a statement, a spokesman for the North's powerful National Defense Commission said nobody could challenge the North's move to boost its self-defense with nuclear weapons, according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
"It is long since the DPRK's nuclear striking means have entered the stage of producing smaller nukes and diversifying them," the spokesman said, adding that the test-firing of the SLBM is part of military efforts to beef up its self-defense capacity in accordance with the North's dual pursuit of nuclear weapons and economic growth.
"The DPRK has reached the stage of ensuring the highest precision and intelligence and best accuracy of not only medium- and short-range rockets, but long-range ones," the spokesman said. The DPRK is the acronym for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The North recently claimed that it successfully test-fired a ballistic missile from a submarine in early May.
Pyongyang has claimed that it has mastered the technology to build a nuclear weapon small enough to fit atop its new intercontinental ballistic missile and fire it at the U.S. mainland.
Experts have raised concerns over Pyongyang's move, since it is seen as part of efforts to equip its missiles with miniaturized nuclear bombs.
Seoul has said it was more of a test for an ejection rather than a firing, since the missile is assumed to have only made it about 100 meters in distance after it soared from the waters.
But analysts said if the North's claim is confirmed, the move can serve a fresh threat to security on the Korean Peninsula as it is hard to detect where Pyongyang would launch a ballistic missile from underwater.
The statement also came hours after the North abruptly canceled U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's planned visit to an inter-Korean industrial complex in its border city of Kaesong slated for Thursday.
Ban's visit was intended to serve as a catalyst for an improvement in the strained inter-Korean relations.
The U.N. chief said Tuesday in Seoul that North Korea's development of missiles and nuclear weapons is a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.