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North Korea can develop nukes without testing them, expert says

A leading Japanese expert on nuclear issues regards Pyongyang’s threat to detonate a nuclear charge in the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean as feasible

TOKYO, October 27. /TASS/. Pyongyang has reached such scientific and technological heights where it is capable of developing nuclear weapons without conducting tests, a leading Japanese expert on nuclear issues, Tetsuo Sawada, Assistant Professor at Tokyo Institute of Technology, told TASS on Friday.

"North Korea is constantly upgrading its technology and has now reached a level where, in my estimation, it no longer needs to carry out nuclear detonations to test and develop the relevant weapons," he said. "Of course, this is my assumption, but it is based on the analysis of six tests conducted in that country."

"I believe the last test, the sixth one, was particularly successful," the expert noted. "Authoritative experts estimate its power at 250 kilotonnes of TNT equivalent. North Korean official reports saying that was a hydrogen charge test are trustworthy, since the explosion of a conventional nuclear bomb cannot be so powerful. A qualitative development of North Korea’s nuclear program is evident, and, apparently, it will continue to push ahead with its efforts to upgrade its potential by creating more compact and light charges."

The expert recalled that India and Pakistan conducted an intensive series of nuclear detonations in 1998 and stopped such tests after that. "These countries have reached a certain level and later on continued developing their military-nuclear potential without carrying out blasts," the expert noted. "Many necessary technologies are well-known now, the situation has changed dramatically from that era when the US and the USSR were second to none in developing nuclear weapons." However, the expert did not rule out that North Korea could go on carrying out nuclear blasts relying on certain considerations.

He also regards Pyongyang’s threat to detonate a nuclear charge in the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean as feasible. According to Sawada, such a test could be conducted at an altitude of over 30 kilometers above the sea level to minimize its consequences for people, navigation and environment.

North Korean Foreign Minister, Ri Yong Ho, said at the UN General Assembly’s September session that Pyongyang could detonate a nuclear charge over the Pacific Ocean in response to Washington’s hostile policies and threats. The minister stressed though that the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, could only make the decision to this effect.

North Korea has conducted nuclear tests since 2006. Four of them were carried out under current leader, Kim Jong-un.