Wednesday, October 08, 2008
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- A South Korean official says that the North is believed to be seeking to develop a small-sized, lightweight nuclear warhead that can be carried by its missiles.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Kim Tae-young told a parliamentary committee Wednesday that he believes the North "has been pushing to develop a small warhead to be mounted on a missile."
Kim was quoted as saying by his office that it is unclear whether the North has already manufactured such a small nuclear warhead.
North Korea, which conducted an underground nuclear test in 2006, maintains a stockpile of plutonium believed to be sufficient to produce about a half dozen bombs.
The country, however, has not been known to have the technology to have a weapons design that fits inside a missile warhead.
Last week, the first military talks between the two countries in eight months ended in just an hour and a half, casting doubts over the prospect of any progress from the meeting.
Defense Ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae said the talks inside the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two sides concluded in 90 minutes, but declined to say whether the sides made any headway.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency cited an unidentified official as saying there was "little progress."
Thursday's meeting marked the resumption of government-level talks between the two Koreas since Seoul's conservative President Lee Myung-bak took office in February.
The two sides were scheduled to discuss the implementation of previous military agreements, a South Korean Defense Ministry statement said. It gave no other details.
Col. Lee Sang-cheol, Seoul's chief delegate for talks, said he felt "a sense of deep responsibility" as he left for the talks' venue at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the Koreas.
Lee also vowed to do his utmost to ensure sincere talks with a positive outcome, according to Yonhap news agency.
The talks come at a time of heightened tensions over North Korea's move to restart its nuclear facilities and concern about communist leader Kim Jong Il's health. Kim, 66, has not been seen for weeks since he reportedly suffered a stroke in mid-August.
North Korea's decision to stop disabling its Yongbyon nuclear reprocessing plant and to take steps to restore it -- in violation of a 2007 pact -- has alarmed regional powers.
South Korea's Dong-a Ilbo newspaper reported that the North has upgraded facilities at its Musudan-ri missile launch site on its northeast coast for a possible test-fire of a long-range missile.