The Unha-3 carrier used in December’s launch “is not a weapon,” Schiller said.
The North has smaller missiles capable of reaching South Korea, Japan and China, but Schiller said their technical unreliability made it “highly unlikely” it would risk one of its few nuclear weapons on such a carrier.
The North’s nuclear arsenal is variously estimated at between six and 10 bombs.
Technical capabilities aside, Schiller questioned whether the outside world tended to overplay the threat of a North Korean nuclear strike.
A pre-emptive attack would result in “total war” that the North could never win, “and the leadership is well aware of that,” Schiller said.
“North Korea’s weapons program is a political tool, aimed at extracting international concessions and showing strength at home,” he said.
“We should see these weapons as what they primarily are: as politics,” he added.