A number of US intelligence analysts currently reason that North Korea "probably" has a miniaturized nuclear warhead, according to several US officials who spoke to CNN on Thursday.
While that view has not been formally adopted by the US government, it reflects growing concern over North Korean despot Kim Jong-Un's escalating threats and nuclear tests and missile tests in breach of sanctions.
"He is determined to prove his doubters wrong," one US official told CNN regarding Kim, even as US analysts are scouring over recent photos showing the North Korean leader standing next to what is said to be a miniaturized nuclear device, which could be placed on a missile.
According to the sources, US officials who think Kim has a nuclear warhead note that they aren't sure if the device would actually work.
Chinese experts as early as February 2015 warned the US that it was grossly underplaying North Korea's nuclear arsenal, and that the regime is actually in possession of 20 nuclear weapons in a number they predicted would double this year. China has been a key ally of North Korea, lending further credence to their assessment.
Despite the US skepticism, American commanders have said they are working on the assumption Kim has an operational nuclear warhead even though they won't determine whether or not that assessment is accurate.
"It's the prudent decision on my part to assume that he has the capability to miniaturize a nuclear weapon and put it on an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile)," US Northern Command head Adm. William Gortney recently said before Congress.
However, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said that while that assumption was "prudent, appropriate, (and) proper," he played down the threat, saying it "does not mean that they have that capability. They've not demonstrated that."
The US does appear to be convinced that North Korea is progressing in testing an advanced version of its nuclear capable KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missile, and also predicts the rogue state is preparing for another underground nuclear test following its latest such breach which came in January.