The US military's spy agency believes North Korea likely has the ability to place a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile but the weapon may not be reliable, a US lawmaker said Thursday, quoting from the intelligence assessment.
Foreign spy services and arms experts have struggled to track North Korea's progress in its bid to miniaturize a nuclear device that could be fixed on a ballistic missile.
But the findings of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), revealed at a congressional hearing by a Colorado lawmaker, mark the first public confirmation by the US government that Pyongyang may have succeeded in its effort.
"DIA assesses with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles," said the report, according to Representative Doug Lamborn, who read from what he said was an unclassified portion of the assessment.
"However, the reliability will be low."
US intelligence agencies declined to comment but issued no statement rebutting the lawmaker's portrayal of the report.
Amid mounting tensions on the Korean peninsula, intelligence officials in Seoul say the North has two mid-range missiles ready for imminent launch from its east coast.
The United States, along with its allies South Korea and Japan, has bolstered missile defenses in the region with naval ships equipped with anti-missile weaponry, a floating radar and interceptors on Guam.
American commanders say their forces would be ready to shoot down a North Korean missile if it threatened South Korea, Japan or US bases in Guam.