HUFFINGTON POST

China Warns North Korea's Nuclear Capability Is On The Rise: Report

A North Korean soldier (L) and a South Korean soldier (R) stand opposite each other at the truce village of Panmunjom in the
A North Korean soldier (L) and a South Korean soldier (R) stand opposite each other at the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas on February 4, 2015. North Korea appeared to rule out any resumption of dialogue with the United States, threatening to react to any US 'war of aggression' with nuclear strikes and cyber warfare. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)

SEOUL, April 23 (Reuters) - Chinese nuclear experts have warned that North Korea may already have 20 nuclear warheads and the capability to produce enough weapons-grade uranium to double its arsenal by next year, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The Chinese estimates of Pyongyang's nuclear production, relayed to U.S. nuclear specialists, exceed most previous U.S. forecasts, which range from 10 to 16 bombs currently, said the report, which cited people briefed on the matter.

Experts at the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies earlier this year presented three scenarios for North Korea's nuclear capability, predicting its stockpile of weapons could grow to 20, 50 or 100 within five years.

North Korea has conducted three nuclear detonations, the most recent in February 2013.

Asked about the report at a regular press briefing on Thursday, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said he "did not have knowledge of the specific situation."

"We must persevere with denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula, persevere in safeguarding peace and stability, and persevere in resolving the relevant issue through dialog," Hong said.

Early this month, U.S. Admiral William Gortney, commander of the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, said the U.S. military believes North Korea has the ability to miniaturize a warhead and mount it on a ballistic missile, although there had been no tests. (Reporting by Tony Munroe in Seoul and Adam Rose in Beijng; Editing by Paul Tait and Simon Cameron-Moore)

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    In this June 20, 2014 photo, a North Korean man stands in front of a row of homes in the town of Kimchaek, in North Korea's North Hamgyong province. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
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    In this Monday, June 16, 2014 photo, North Korean men ride in a farmer's wagon in North Korea's South Hamgyong province. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
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    In this June 20, 2014 photo, North Korean people rest next to the railroad tracks in a town in North Korea's North Hamgyong province. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
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    In this Saturday, June 21, 2014 photo North Koreans walk in front of an apartment building in North Korea's South Hamgyong province. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
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    In this June 20, 2014 photo, exhaust fumes, like fog, spills out of the long Hamgwan Tunnel near Hamhung in North Korea's South Hamgyong province. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
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    In this June 15, 2014 photo, an apartment block stands behind hotel room curtains on the main street in Hamhung, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
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    In this June 16, 2014 photo, farmers walk in a rainstorm with their cattle near the town of Hyesan, North Korea in Ryanggang province. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
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    In this June 18, 2014 photo, the Associated Press vehicle climbs the slopes of Mount Paektu in North Korea's in North Korea's Ryanggang province. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
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    In this June 21, 2014 photo, a row of bicycles are parked next to the sea Wonsan, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
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    In this June 21, 2014 photo, a group of young North Koreans enjoys a picnic on the beach in Wonsan, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
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    In this June 21, 2014 photo, a man works on his car as others sit next to the sea Wonsan, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)