U.S. intelligence believes North Korea can produce enough fissile material from its plutonium-based program to make 10 to 15 nuclear weapons a year, a senior administration official said on Thursday.
North Korea has been working on a uranium-based nuclear program since the 1990s, when it declared it was abandoning its plutonium-based program as part of a 1994 agreement with the United States, South Korea and Japan.
The source of the estimates, based on findings from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, was not immediately clear.
A U.S. government official said intelligence officials believed North Korea was willing to dismantle its main plutonium-based weapons program under an existing peace treaty.
“North Korea does not intend to produce nuclear weapons with enriched uranium, in spite of the recent WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and missile-related sanctions imposed on it by the United Nations Security Council, therefore making it unlikely that North Korea would pursue an enrichment-based weapons program at this time,” the U.S. official said.
The report comes as the United States and North Korea have been engaged in regular talks since U.S. President Donald Trump took office last year, hoping that denuclearization can be achieved.