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North Korea may have level one nuclear weapons

February 08, 19:47 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara

MOSCOW, February 8. /TASS/. The world community’s response to North Korea’s launch of a missile carrying a space satellite was so harsh because the threat to peace is real. The West suspects that Pyongyang may well have launched a missile armed with a nuclear warhead.

In early January 2016 the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said it had tested a hydrogen bomb. And last Sunday North Korean television triumphantly declared the country had put a space satellite in orbit. The launch was ordered by the national leader Kim Jong-Un. The Western countries, Japan and South Korea believe that in fact North Korea has tested a long-range missile. They came out with strong condemnation of North Korea’s violations of UN resolutions prohibiting Pyongyang from making nuclear tests. Moscow and Beijing took a common stance regarding the missile launch. At an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Sunday the diplomats unanimously declared the readiness to tighten the grip of sanctions on North Korea.

The head of the military-political studies center at the institute of international relations MGIMO, Aleksey Podberyozkin, believes that North Korea’s missile launch has proved a major destabilizing factor in the whole of Southeast Asia. South Korea promptly declared that it would enter into negotiations with the United States on the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense complex (THAAD) in its territory. Earlier, Beijing voiced alarm over the THAAD radar’s ability to monitor China’s airspace.

Podberyozkin believes that North Korea’s missile launch caused such disarray because nobody in the world understands the process of strategic decision-making in Pyongyang. "The North Korean missile’s flight path is as unpredictable as the behavior of a monkey holding a hand grenade. The issue on the agenda is that of long-range offensive ballistic missiles capable of reaching London and Paris. In the meantime, there are still no effective means of intercepting such missiles," Podberyozkin said.

"The United States will certainly use the North Korean threat as a fresh argument for large scale, multi-tier deployment of US missile defense systems in various parts of the world, which naturally would evoke protests from Russia and China and fan tensions in the Asia-Pacific Region to a still greater extent," Podberyozkin told TASS.

UN resolutions prohibiting North Korea from conducting nuclear tests made sense as instruments of maintaining security in the region. Many countries, not just Russia and China, had been prepared to extend economic and humanitarian assistance to Pyongyang just for the sake of dissuading it from staging dangerous experiments. But the North Korean leadership ignores the position of the world community," Podberyozkin said.

"I believe that the extra sanctions the UN Security Council is working on will have no effects on Pyongyang. I’ve been to North Korea more than once and I saw for myself the country’s people are quite sincere in their worshiping of the ruling clan. If Kim decides to push ahead with the nuclear program and restricts food rationing to just one cup of rice a day per person, thousands of people will still be vowing allegiance to their leader in front of TV cameras," Podberyozkin said.

General of the Army Yuri Baluyevsky, a former chief of Russia’s General Staff, sees no special reasons for panic over North Korea’s launch of the missile carrying a space satellite. "I believe that in Pyongyang there are no crazies who would dare launch a nuclear warhead with an experimental missile. It was just a test launch of a missile having a range of about 10,000 kilometers," Baluyevsky told TASS.

As for whether North Korea really had nuclear weapons at its disposal, Baluyevsky said it was still highly questionable. "Back in 2006 I visited South Korea and Japan in the capacity of the chief of the General Staff. Pyongyang then exploded an underground nuclear device to spark a global outcry. We then estimated that explosion’s yield at two to five kilotonnes. Military officials in Seoul and Tokyo were asking me if North Korea had nuclear weapons. My answer was as follows: the period between the moment a nuclear device is tested to making a nuclear warhead lasts five to ten years. Precisely ten years are gone now. One may speculate that Pyongyang currently has the lowest level nuclear weapon of the kind the Soviet Union had back in the late 1950s," Baluyevsky said.

He explained that a nuclear device could be raised in the air and exploded, while a nuclear warhead was still to be made part and parcel of a missile, and that made a great difference.

"Making a nuclear weapon is no problem for a highly industrialized country. Pyongyang addresses this task by tightening the belts of its people. In this way North Korea tries to achieve self-assertion to the detriment of other countries. The Russian leadership was quite correct to criticize Pyongyang for launching the missile with a satellite. The situation in the Asia-Pacific Region has by no means turned calmer.

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