N. Korea may produce 14 to 18 nuke warheads by 2019 if talks Fail: scholar
North Korea may be able to produce up to 14 to 18 nuclear warheads by 2019 if the multilateral talks for its Denuclearization fail, a scholar said Tuesday.
"If North Korea is able to refurbish its fuel fabrication plant, that production rate could continue indefinitely with its arsenal reaching 14-18 weapons by 2019," said Joel Wit, a visiting fellow at the U.S. Korea Institute at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, in a report.
Wit was discussing the North's nuclear fuel reprocessing plant at its Yongbyon nuclear facilities being reactivated after it declared a boycott of the six-party talks early last year over U.N. sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests.
He said that North Korea's "nuclear stockpile is believed to consist of sufficient plutonium to build 4-8 weapons."
"Using existing stocks of fresh fuel, North Korea could produce a bomb's worth of plutonium each year from 2011-2013," he said in the report titled "Four Scenarios for a nuclear North Korea."
North Korea, which conducted its second nuclear test, after one in 2006, in May last year, is widely believed to possess several nuclear warheads, with some analysts saying it has already developed the technology to mount the warheads on long-range missiles.
The North's second nuclear test is widely seen as having demonstrated its nuclear capability unlike the previous one, which is seen as a partial failure.
"We judge North Korea has tested two nuclear devices, and while we do not know whether the North has produced nuclear weapons, we assess it has the capability to do so," Dennis Blair, director of National Intelligence, said earlier this month.