N Korea nuclear threat reaches `alarming level`: Official

N Korea`s nuclear programme has reached a "very alarming level" and could cause havoc in S Korea.

Seoul: North Korea`s nuclear programme has
reached a "very alarming level" and could cause havoc in South
Korea if Pyongyang develops smaller mobile weapons, a senior
Seoul presidential aide says.

"North Korea`s nuclear threat has progressed at a rapid
pace and reached a very alarming level, while the nuclear
programmes are evolving even now," JoongAng Ilbo newspaper
quoted Kim Tae-Hyo as telling a forum yesterday.

Kim, the president`s deputy national security adviser,
confirmed the comments to AFP today.

The aide said Pyongyang was believed to be operating all
its nuclear programmes, including the Yongbyon nuclear reactor
which produces weapons-grade plutonium, and a separate
highly-enriched uranium project to make bombs.

"If the nuclear warheads are made compact and deployed to
the field, they could wreak immense havoc on South Korea
regardless of their precision level," JoongAng quoted him as
saying.

The North closed down Yongbyon in 2007 under a six-nation
disarmament deal, but quit the pact in April 2009 and
announced it would restart operations at the complex.

In September 2009 it said its experiments with uranium
enrichment had reached their final phase.

South Korea`s defence minister said this week the North
was restoring facilities at Yongbyon.

He was speaking after a private US research institute,
citing satellite photos, said new construction or excavation
was under way there.

Presidential aide Kim Tae-Hyo also warned of potential
dangers from the leadership succession process which has begun
in the North.

Kim Jong-Un, youngest son of leader Kim Jong-Il, has been
appointed a four-star general and been given powerful party
posts.

The untested young protege may be "tempted to launch
provocations or other daring moves" to showcase his presence
to the world during the power transition, the aide warned.

"It is important to make him aware that making such
choices would put inter-Korea relations in irreversibly
significant jeopardy."

The North`s current plutonium stockpile is estimated to
be enough for six to eight bombs. It tested atomic weapons in
October 2006 and May 2009.

Its Vice Foreign Minister Pak Kil-Yon told the United
Nations last week his country must strengthen its nuclear
deterrent in the face of what he called threats from the
US.

The North has indicated willingness in principle to
return to the six-party forum chaired by its ally China. But
it says it wants separate talks with the US about signing a
permanent peace treaty on the peninsula.

South Korea and the US, which accuse the North of a
deadly March attack on a South Korean warship, have responded
warily. Japan and Russia are also members of the forum.

PTI

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