North Korea has not yet mastered the technology needed for the atmospheric re-entry of a warhead, a vital part in the progress of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), says South Korea's spy agency. Rejecting Pyongyang's boast that its latest ballistic missile could carry a nuclear warhead, a South Korean lawmaker citing Seoul's National Intelligence Service (NIS) said the North is unlikely to have obtained the sophisticated technology.

The hermit kingdom test-fired what it claimed was an ICBM for the first time on 4 July defying UN-led international regulations and increasing tensions further in the Korean peninsula. The reclusive Kim Jong-un regime later warned that the weapon could be fitted with a nuclear warhead and could reach the US mainland.

Rebuffing the claims, South Korea's Yi Wan-young, a member of parliament's intelligence committee, said there is no evidence to prove the North has tested the re-entry technology necessary for any ICBM.

"Considering how North Korea does not have any testing facilities (for re-entry technology), the agency believes (North Korea) has not yet secured that technology," Yi said during a televised parliamentary briefing. He conceded that the North Korean scientists could have managed to obtain the technology to guide a warhead to precision-strike a target – another key step in coming up with a fully-fledged ICBM.

The South Korean lawmaker added that the ICBM appeared to be an upgraded version of the previously launched KN-17, an intermediate range missile tested in May 2016.

Yi also cautioned that North Korea could be gearing up for yet another nuclear test in the future although he admitted there are no obvious signs of preparations for an immediate detonation.

The Korean peninsula is witnessing turbulence after the North test-launched its latest ballistic missile. While the US and its allied forces — South Korea and Japan — stepped up their military readiness in the region by flying bombers and conducting drills, the North has warned against any such provocation.

North Korea ICBM launch
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reacts with scientists and technicians of the DPRK Academy of Defence Science after the test-launch of the intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 in this undated photo KCNA via Reuters