South Korea 'Certain' North Korea Has Nuclear Bombs

South Korea is certain North Korea has nuclear weapons and Seoul's best estimate is Pyongyang has produced one or two bombs, its defense minister said on Friday, amid reports that the North may be preparing a nuclear test.

Defence Minister Yoon Kwang-ing has previously said he believed the North had one or two nuclear weapons, but his remarks in parliament on Friday were among the strongest yet on the North's possession of atomic bombs.

"It is estimated that the North has one or two," Yoon told a parliamentary hearing when asked about the North's nuclear arsenal. When asked if the South has no doubt about the North's possession of a nuclear weapon, Yoon said: "That's correct."

Yoon also said there was not enough evidence at present to conclude the North is about to conduct its first nuclear weapons test.

North Korea declared in February 2005 it possessed nuclear weapons. U.S. and Japanese news reports have said the North might be preparing to conduct an underground nuclear test.

Yoon said there were activities at a North Korean nuclear site as have been described in news reports, but they did not yet amount to conclusive evidence of an imminent test.

"More analysis of data is needed to talk about the possibility (of a test)," Yoon said.

North Korea has been working for years to build a nuclear weapon, but proliferation experts have not been able to say with certainty if the North had built an atomic bomb.

North Korea had up to six nuclear weapons in 1994 when it agreed to freeze all related programmes, but the number is likely to have risen, Leon J. LaPorte, former commander of the U.S. military in Korea said in South Korea's JoongAng Ilbo in April.

"The estimate of one or two is actually fairly dated," said a senior expert on the North's nuclear programme at the Korea Institute of Defence Analyses, Kim Tae-woo.

"But to say he has no doubt about it is definitely a step forward," Kim said.

Most estimates of the North's nuclear arsenal vary between five to 10 and sometimes more, Kim said.

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