SEOUL -- South Korea's Defense Ministry said yesterday that North Korea is believed to have about 110 pounds of plutonium, enough to produce up to seven nuclear weapons.
In its biennial defense report, the ministry also said the North is believed to be capable of producing biological weapons, including anthrax weapons, and possesses up to 5,000 tons of toxic agents.
The report described North Korea "as a serious threat, considering the serious nature of its nuclear test and threat of weapons of mass destruction," the ministry said in a statement.
North Korea stoked regional tensions in October when it conducted its first nuclear test, drawing UN sanctions and global condemnation.
Last year, North Korea pledged to dismantle its nuclear program in exchange for security guarantees and aid. No progress has been made in implementing the agreement because of North Korea's objections to US financial restrictions imposed on the communist regime for its alleged money laundering and counterfeiting.
During nuclear talks last week, the North continued to insist that the United States lift the sanctions before it would move ahead on dismantling its nuclear program.
The report said North Korea has the ability to launch a surprise attack on South Korea without repositioning its troops because it deploys about 70 percent of its ground forces south of the capital, Pyongyang. The North has a standing army of almost 2 million.
North Korea "is consistently preparing for war for a long period and is likely to keep this military policy in the future," the report said.
South Korea is trying to strengthen its defense capability as it prepares to regain wartime operational control of its forces, which have been under the command of US-led United Nations forces since the Korean War.
Seoul regained peacetime control of its troops in 1994, but the United States is supposed to control South Korean forces if a war breaks out. South Korea and the United States agreed in October that Seoul would retake control of its troops sometime between 2009 and 2012.
President Roh Moo Hyun of South Korea, who has pursued a foreign policy that is less dependent on Washington, called for the transfer of command, saying the move is long overdue. About 29,500 US troops are stationed in South Korea. The presence of the troops is a legacy of the Korean War, which ended in a cease-fire rather than a peace treaty.