Jeffrey LewisNorth Korea's Nuclear Weapons May Weigh 650-750 KG

The Defense Intelligence Agency—in A Primer on the Future Threat, The Decades Ahead: 1999-2020 (SECRET/NO FORN) from July 1999—concludes North Korea’s nuclear weapons will weigh no less than 650-750 kg:

In the near term, it is unlikely that the North Korean nuclear weapons program can achieve nuclear yield from a 100 kg device. An early-generation warhead weighing 650-750 kg is the best Pyongyang could achieve.

Such a warhead would, presumably, require a test. The CIA concluded tests are unnecessary for simple fission devices.

Lieutenant General Patrick M. Hughes, (USA-Ret.) authored the report while Director of DIA from 1996-1999.

FAIR’s Seth Ackerman notes Hughes was “widely believed” to be a key source of classified material leaked to the Washington Times’ Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough.

Excerpts from the report—including this one—were published in Scarborough’s Rumsfeld’s War. I may post a .pdf of the document if I have time later this week.


  1. J. (History)

    You know, I’ve always been pissed that no one acknowledges that Scarborough published classified information and that he was not pillaried for that. I even called the FBI and the DOD IG to tell them, and no action. Just unbelievable. I should do a post on the CB stuff he put in there. Funny thing was, he didn’t print the Iraq CBW section – just about everyone else is in there though.

  2. Jeffrey Lewis

    One reader asks “Is 650 kg heavy? what does that mean in terms of missile range?”

    650-750 kg is the bare minimum to place a warhead on a Taepo Dong 2. See my post on the subject.

  3. John Field (History)

    If you didn’t care how much plutonium you use, why wouldn’t it be possible to build a linear implosion setup slightly boron poisoned to be auto-catalytic – to reduce the implosion time and quality constraints somewhat, AND end up with an extremely lightweight warhead overall?

    It would mean that north korea would only be able to build perhaps 3 bombs instead of 6 maybe, but I think it would allow them to use their missiles.

    am I mistaken?