North Korea is a full-fledged nuclear power with a capacity to wipe out Japan, S. Korea

North Korea is a full-fledged nuclear power with a capacity to wipe out Japan, S. KoreaLondon, Apr 24 : North Korea has become a full-fledged nuclear power with the capacity to wipe out entire cities in Japan and South Korea, a confidential report prepared by world's intelligence agencies and defence experts states.

This new reality has emerged in off-hand remarks and in single sentences buried in lengthy reports.

Increasing numbers of authoritative experts from the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohamed ElBaradei to the US Defence Secretary Robert Gates are admitting that North Korea has miniaturised nuclear warheads to the extent that they can be launched on medium-range missiles, according to intelligence briefings.

This puts it ahead of Iran in the race for nuclear attack capability and seriously alters the balance of power between North Korea's large, but poorly equipped military and the South Korean and US forces ranged against it, The Times reports.

"North Korea has nuclear weapons, which is a matter of fact. I don't like to accept any country as a nuclear weapon state we have to face reality," ElBaradei said.

North Korea carried out an underground nuclear test in 2006, but until recently foreign governments believed that such nuclear devices were useless as weapons because they were too unwieldy to be mounted on a missile.

Now North Korea's supreme leader, Kim Jong Il, has the potential to kill millions in Japan as well as the South, and to lay waste US bases and airfields in both countries.

It will force military strategists to rethink plans for war in Korea and significantly increase the potential costs of any intervention in a future Korean war.

Daniel Pinkston, of the International Crisis Group think-tank, said that he has been shown detailed intelligence assessments of the new nuclear capability by a foreign government.

Last December, the US Forces Joint Command published an annual report, which, for the first time, listed North Korea, alongside China, India, Pakistan and Russia, as one of Asia's nuclear powers.

The US Government insisted that this did not reflect its official policy - but then James Schlesinger, a former US Defence Secretary, delivered a report by a Pentagon task force saying the same thing. (ANI)