North Korea can now deliver a nuclear warhead on a missile, the South Korean Defence Ministry claimed in a report, contradicting the US assessment that the country is years away from developing the technology.
"The security situation on the Korean peninsula has now worsened as the North's threat of nuclear missiles has become real," according to the report, which was presented to a parliamentary committee on national security yesterday and released by the office of lawmaker Kim Kwang Jin.
The new capability may embolden North Korea toward military provocation once the US relinquishes its wartime command of South Korean troops in 2015, the report said. That command was given to the US during the 1950-53 Korean war.
North Korea threatened first strikes against South Korea and the US in March after a February nuclear test prompted tightened sanctions against the Kim Jong-un regime. The Obama administration has said the country did not have the ability to launch an atomic weapon on a missile.
Until 2010, the North was in an experimental stage with its nuclear missiles and the country has now come to a point where it can actually use them, the report said. The ministry did not explain how it reached its conclusion, and the study did not mention the ranges of the nuclear-capable missiles.