By Yi Whan-woo
North Korea can launch nuclear missiles within two days once its leader Kim Jong-un orders it, according to a British think tank.
In a report released by the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), Monday, the London-based Chatham House said Pyongang also seems capable of making up to eight nuclear weapons.
"Were Kim to order the launching of nuclear weapons, it would take one to two days to arm the weapons," the think tank said.
"It (North Korea) is thought to possess enough fissile material for approximately eight nuclear weapons and to have a highly centralized command-and-control system."
The report titled, "Too close for comfort: Cases of near nuclear use and options for policy," was released amid growing speculation that a nuclear test by North Korea is imminent.
On Thursday, South Korea's Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said North Korea is making final preparations to conduct its fourth nuclear test, although he added it could be a bluff.
The communist regime conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and last year. And it has threatened to conduct another one in protest of the "hostility" shown by the United States and South Korea.
Chatham House said the information about North Korea's nuclear program provides some insight into the risks of a nuclear incident, although much of it is speculation.
According to the think tank, Kim Jong-un, however, may not be able to order a nuclear missile launch on his own, raising concerns over safety.
"Nuclear weapons are formally under the control of the National Defense Commission, headed by Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, but there may be other groups, particularly the military, with influence on nuclear weapons command," it said.
"The safety and security of this system are much debated: some experts suggest that the highly centralized nature of the regime is favorable for nuclear security and avoiding a nuclear launch, whereas others suggest Kim ‘cannot wield nuclear weapons unilaterally' and would be subject to pressure from the military in particular."
The CISAC, a research center at Stanford University, released the 38-page report after only part of it went public in April.
Chatham House, also known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is a non-profit, non-governmental organization. It analyzes and promotes the understanding of major international issues and current affairs.