South Korean intelligence believes North Korea has the ability to mount a miniaturized nuclear warhead on a medium range missile. The missile’s range would allow it to strike all of South Korea and most of Japan. Reuters reports:

“We believe they have accomplished miniaturization of a nuclear warhead to mount it on a Rodong missile,” said the South Korean official, who has knowledge of South Korea’s assessment of the North’s nuclear program. The official spoke to a small group of reporters on condition of anonymity…

The Rodong missile can fire a 1 tonne (1,100 lb) warhead a distance of up to 2,000 km (1,250 miles), the official said. That would put all of South Korea, most of Japan and parts of Russia and China in range.

“We believe they have the ability to mount a nuclear warhead on a Rodong. Whether they will fire it like that is a political decision,” said the official.

The South Korean assessment is just the latest piece of a story that began last month when North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un claimed his country had successfully created a miniature nuclear warhead small enough to mount on a missile. North Korea issues all sorts of unreliable statements about its military capabilities but in this case state media published pictures of Kim standing next to the warhead in question. About two weeks after the claim (and the photo) appeared, CNN reported that U.S. intelligence analysts had concluded the warhead was probably real:

Some U.S. intelligence analysts now believe that North Korea “probably” possesses a miniaturized nuclear warhead, several U.S. officials told CNN.

The assessment has yet to become a formal consensus view of the U.S. government. But it reveals just how far along many in the U.S. believe the reclusive country has come to gaining a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile that could potentially strike the U.S.
In addition, South Korean intelligence suggested today that North Korea has a new large caliber rocket system capable of striking Seoul as soon as the end of 2016. And one final report, also from today, says North Korea is raising concern at the Pentagon with its efforts to jam GPS signals:

North Korea is jamming GPS devices in South Korea, affecting hundreds of passenger jets, commuters, Uber drivers and commercial fishing boats while raising alarm bells in the Pentagon, multiple defense officials confirmed to Fox News Wednesday.

All of this adds up to a very tense situation in which North Korea’s brand of hyperbolic provocations seem a bit less comical than usual. For instance, this recent video depicting a nuclear attack on Washington DC and this one, released Tuesday, showing a simulated rocket attack on Seoul:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4MRG-s92Jw

North Korea is so far outside the normal bounds of its own crazy behavior that China has taken the unusual step of banning imports from North Korean companies. North Korea has spent years behaving as a rogue and dangerous nation threatening both the U.S. and South Korea on a regular basis. But at the moment, it seems the ability to potentially launch a nuclear missile strike is leading North Korea to behave even more recklessly than usual.