Seoul played down the report.

"Our military's assessment is that the North has not yet miniaturized," South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told a news briefing.

"North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests but there is doubt whether it is at the stage where they can reduce the weight and miniaturize to mount on a missile."

Pyongyang has frequently cited the US-led invasion of Iraq as a reason it needed nuclear weapons, saying that without them, Washington would seek to topple its government too.

The United Nations sanctioned North Korea for a nuclear test on February 12, its third, sparking a furious response from Pyongyang. The North has also called annual military drills between US and South Korean forces a "hostile" act.

North Korea has stationed as many as five medium-range missiles on its east coast, according to defence assessments by Washington and Seoul. South Korean and US officials believe it is preparing to launch a Musudan missile, whose range of 3,500 km (2,100 miles) or more would put Japan within striking distance and may threaten Guam, home to US military bases.

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