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South Korean foreign minister doubts North Korea's nuclear capabilities

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa says there is no concrete evidence North Korea has mastered the technology to put a nuclear device on a long-range missile. / Korea Times file

By Chyung Eun-ju

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa questioned North Korea's nuclear capabilities, despite their "significant progress," in a CNN interview aired on Tuesday (local time).

"Now they have declared after the latest launch the completion of their program," Kang said. "But as I said, there is no concrete evidence that they have mastered the technology that is required to be able to put a nuclear device on a long-range nuclear missile.

"The declaration in their statement is one thing; have they really mastered the technology is another thing."

Kang acknowledged that the North Koreans have developed their program at "a pace that's far faster than many of us have expected, but they have not reached the final completion stage yet."

The foreign minister also urged the global community to "put pressure and implement sanctions in a concerted way" to "change the course of the North Korean regime."

According to the Ministry of Unification on Dec. 1, North Korea had not crossed the "red line" that could trigger military action with the test firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) last week, since it failed to prove its capacity of reentry, terminal guidance and warhead activation.

"It is also unclear whether the North has mastered the technology of miniaturizing a nuclear warhead," presidential spokesman Park Soo-hyun said.

Defense Minister Song Young-moo suggested that the North Korean regime intentionally exaggerated its nuclear capabilities to boost leader Kim Jong-un's achievements.

Yeo Suk-joo, policy office chief at the defense ministry, told the South Korean parliament on Dec. 1 that the missile could travel over 13,000 kilometers, "including Washington, D.C., in its range," but it required further review to prove its development of necessary technologies.

Chyung Eun-ju

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