Army General Curtis Scaparrotti has communicated concerns that North Korea may have the knowledge to build and launch a nuclear warhead. However, as of yet, there isn’t any definite evidence the country has moved in that direction.
Reuters reported Gen. Scaparrotti said he thought North Korea’s connection with Iran and Pakistan may provide it access to the expertise needed to miniaturize and mount an atomic weapon on a missile.
“I believe they have the capability to miniaturize a device at this point and they have the technology to potentially deliver what they say they have,” Scaparrotti said at a news conference at the Pentagon. “We’ve not seen it tested, and I don’t think as a commander we can afford the luxury of believing perhaps they haven’t gotten there.”
“General Scaparrotti said he believes they have the capability to miniaturize,” Rear Admiral John Kirby said later. “That’s not the same thing as saying that they have the capability to mount, test and deliver a nuclear weapon in an ICBM.” He added that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel shared the same concerns.
As far as those outside their network know, North Korea has only conducted three tests of nuclear devices, with the most recent in February 2013. Miniaturizing an atomic weapon so that it can be attached to a delivery system like a missile is a technological obstacle that has to be overcome in order to create a nuclear weapon.
According to the News Telegram, when asked if Pyongyang actually had miniaturized a nuclear device, Scaparrotti said, “I don’t know that.”
“What I’m saying is that I think given their technological capabilities, the time that they’ve been working on this, that they probably have the capabilities to put this together,” he said.
Scaparrotti also said that there is no sign of political struggle or turmoil in North Korea, which was rumored recently when leader Kim Jong-un disappeared from public view for several weeks. The North Korea leader reappeared in the middle of the October with a limp and a cane, leading to conclusions he had a health issue.
The News Telegram reported that South Korea’s concern about the North’s nuclear goals and its increase of ballistic missiles is one of the primary reasons Washington agreed to maintain wartime control of South Korean. The agreement, announced Thursday, delays the transfer of wartime authority to Seoul that had originally been scheduled for 2015.