North Korea has been accused of potentially having up to 242 nuclear weapons and roughly dozens of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in 2027, a report from the Asan Institute for Policy Studies and Rand Corp found on Tuesday.
The news comes after a Yonhap news agency report alleged North Korea had relocated a submarine site for testing ballistic missiles.
"It is estimated that the total number of North Korea's nuclear weapons by 2027 would be between 151 and 242, in addition to tens of mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles," the report alleged.
Estimates for the report were based on plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU), among others, allegedly produced by North Korea, as well as US intelligence data and analysts.
"We estimate North Korea's number of nuclear weapons from 2017 through 2027, with the starting value of 30 to 60 nuclear weapons in 2017, with one to two plutonium weapons added by 2020, and with the numbers growing by either 12 weapons per year or 18 weapons per year," the report read.
But the report admitted there were "vast uncertainties" in Pyongyang's inventory, adding the report was not based on real production numbers or knowledge of centrifuges to produce HEU.
The report added the North could potentially advance its nuclear weapon capability and launch attacks in "much more coercive and diverse ways".
"The United States could also threaten North Korea that if it crosses an ICBM or nuclear weapon inventory threshold, or both, the United States will station in the ROK eight to ten tactical nuclear weapons capable of destroying deep underground facilities," the report added.
The US should also delay transfers of wartime operational control from Washington to Seoul unless the former could provision the nuclear weapons backing with the latter, the report said.
"Unlike in a conventional conflict, in a nuclear conflict, the ROK is not ready to take the principal role in confronting North Korea, especially in the initial stage of a contingency. This is a key weakness that could lead the North Koreans to interpret the OPCON transition as a sign of faltering U.S. commitment to the defense of the ROK," it noted.
The news comes just days after North Korean supreme leader Kim Jeong-Un Kim called on the Worker's Party of Korea to "further strengthen the nuclear war deterrent" and outlining a fresh five-year economic plan.