updated 10/26/2006 6:33:52 AM ET 2006-10-26T10:33:52

North Korea might have extracted as much as 110 pounds of plutonium and is working to miniaturize nuclear devices to fit on ballistic missiles, a South Korean lawmaker said on Thursday, quoting from a Defense Ministry report.

That amount would be enough for up to seven nuclear weapons, the report said.

North Korea probably has been able to make a nuclear bomb weighing about two or three tons but needs to get them under one ton to be able to deliver them via missiles, the report said.

The Defense Ministry declined to confirm the contents of the report, which was released to the media by lawmaker Song Young-sun on Thursday, but did confirm that a report on the subject was reviewed by the Defense Minister and commanding officers in a meeting on Oct. 10.

The officials were meeting a day after North Korea detonated a nuclear device on Oct. 9 in defiance of international warnings, triggering a U.N. Security Council resolution mandating financial and arms sanctions.

“It is estimated that (the North) has extracted up to 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of plutonium,” the report said. “Seven to eight kilograms (15 to 17 pounds) of plutonium is needed for one nuclear weapon,” it said.

The lawmaker said the report was based on ministry estimates of reported North Korean nuclear activities.

Technological disadvantage
Estimates of the North’s nuclear arsenal have ranged from one or two weapons to as many as ten or more. Its plutonium stockpile is believed to be enough for 13 bombs, according to some estimates.

North Korea has a fleet of 82 Soviet-made IL-28 bombers that it can use to drop a nuclear weapon, the report said.

North Korea has said the Oct. 9 test was successful and intended as a deterrent against what it calls a U.S. attempt to start a nuclear war against it. Some analysts have questioned its success, however, given the explosion’s small yield.

“The amount of plutonium needed to build a nuclear weapon varies widely depending on the technology of the country,” said Kim Tae-woo, a proliferation expert at the Korea Institute of Defense Analyses in Seoul.

“Our analysis, which we hope is true, is that North Korea would not have the level of technology of an advanced nuclear power,” Kim said.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.


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