Asian stocks lower as US North Korea nuclear tensions rise

Reuters

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles, crossing a key threshold on the path to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power, according a confidential assessment by us intelligence officials.

On Wednesday, the official KCNA news agency said North Korea was "carefully examining the operational plan for making an enveloping fire at the areas around Guam" using its domestically made medium-to-long-range Hwasong-12 missiles.

The North said Wednesday it is examining its plan for "making an enveloping fire" around Guam, a Pacific island that is home to major US military bases. It reportedly takes only two hours for the supersonic bomber to reach Korea from Guam.

The DIA completed the analysis in July, shortly after another intelligence assessment that sharply raises the official estimate for the total number of bombs in the communist country's atomic arsenal, the Post said.

That is apparently what North Korean scientists and engineers have managed to accomplish.

Tensions have risen since North Korea carried out two nuclear bomb tests previous year and two ICBM tests last month.

But analysts and politicians reacted to the United States president's latest remarks with derision.

He said the North Korean regime would want tens of billions of dollars in economic aid - otherwise it could escalate the risk in two ways: threatening neighbours like South Korea and seeking to sell the technology to other hostile actors.


The Korean People's Army stressed that it stands ready to stage an all-out armed conflict if Washington presses ahead with a preventive war against it, the Korea Herald reported quoting Yonhap.

A Japanese defence paper and a USA media report Tuesday said North Korea may have successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles.

Asked about the story on "Fox & Friends", U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said, "I can't talk about anything that's classified and if that's in a newspaper, that's a shame".

Guam's governor, Eddie Calvo, has said there is no change in the territory's threat level, and has reassured locals that several layers of defence are strategically placed to protect it.

The U.S. calculated last month that up to 60 nuclear weapons are now controlled by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last week that the US was not demanding regime change and was willing to talk with Pyongyang - if the North agrees to abandon its quest for nuclear weapons.

After Kim's second ICBM test, experts said it appeared the "re-entry vehicle" that would carry a warhead back into Earth's atmosphere from space had failed in the intense heat. It's unclear whether North Korea has successfully tested the new design, though a year ago Kim Jong Un's regime declared it had.

Bordallo called on President Donald Trump to show "steady leadership" and work with the worldwide community to de-escalate tensions and stop North Korea advancing its weapons programme.

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