Can North Korea launch nuclear strike?

U.S. State Dept. says 'No' but question lingers
Associated Press
Apr 13, 2013

 

On the brink of an expected North Korean missile test, U.S. officials focused on the limits of Pyongyang's nuclear firepower Friday, trying to shift attention from the disclosure that the North Koreans might be able to launch a nuclear strike. They insisted that while the unpredictable government might have rudimentary nuclear capabilities, it has not proved it has a weapon that could reach the United States.

A senior defense official said the U.S. sees a "strong likelihood" that North Korea will launch a test missile in coming days in defiance of international calls for restraint. The effort is expected to test the North's ballistic missile technologies, not a nuclear weapon, said the official, who was granted anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

Unless the missile unexpectedly heads for a U.S. or allied target, the Pentagon does not plan to try to shoot it down, several officials said. As a precaution, the U.S. has arrayed in the Pacific a number of missile defense Navy ships, tracking radars and other elements of its worldwide network for shooting down hostile missiles.

The tensions playing out on the Korean peninsula are the latest in a long-running drama that dates to the 1950-53 Korean War, fed by the North's conviction that Washington is intent on destroying the government in Pyongyang and Washington's worry that the North could, out of desperation, reignite the war by invading the South.

The mood in the North Korean capital, meanwhile, was hardly so tense. Many people were in the streets preparing for the birthday April 15 of national founder Kim Il Sung — the biggest holiday of the year. Even so, this year's big flower show in Kim's honor features an exhibition of orchids built around mock-ups of red-tipped missiles, slogans hailing the military and reminders of perceived threats to the nation.

The plain fact is that no one can be sure how far North Korea has progressed in its pursuit of becoming a full-fledged nuclear power, aside perhaps from a few people close to its new leader, Kim Jong Un.

More is known about North Korea's conventional military firepower, and it is being heavily monitored for signs of trouble. The North has long had thousands of artillery guns positioned close enough to the border to hit Seoul with a murderous barrage on short notice. The U.S. has about 28,500 troops in the South.

Concern about the North's threatening rhetoric jumped a notch on Thursday with the disclosure on Capitol Hill that the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency believes with "moderate confidence" that the North could deliver a nuclear weapon by ballistic missile. The DIA assessment did not mention the potential range of such a strike, but it led to a push by administration officials to minimize the significance of the jarring disclosure.

Secretary of State John Kerry said in Seoul on Friday "it's inaccurate to suggest" that the North had fully tested and demonstrated its ability to deliver a nuclear weapon by ballistic missile, a message also delivered by the Pentagon and by James Clapper, the director of national intelligence and a former head of the DIA.

Indeed, the attention-getting DIA report made no such suggestion; it simply offered what amounts to an educated guess that the North has some level of nuclear weapons capability. It has been working on that for at least 20 years, and private analysts who closely track North Korean developments say it's fairly clear that the North has made progress.

The DIA disclosure spawned a partisan split in Washington over its significance and meaning. A Republican House member with access to classified intelligence said the analysis was in line with a view generally held by other U.S. intelligence agencies, whereas a senior Obama administration official said the central DIA assertion is not shared by many government analysts. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss intelligence.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said Friday that members of the committee received an overall briefing on worldwide threats including North Korea this week, but they'll get a more detailed briefing next week.

"I'll be interested to see whether some of the other intelligence community take a different view" than the DIA assessment, he said.

Thomas Fingar, a former deputy director of national intelligence for analysis, said the DIA report reflects the fact that the military plans against worse cases, "so you're prepared for anything less than that."

Fingar, now a Stanford University professor, added, "That's different than judgments about what's 'most likely.' It gets into the subject of 'Is it conceivable?'"

Within the government's 16 intelligence agencies, analysts often disagree on even basic aspects of important issues. Deciphering the technical military advances in a reclusive society like North Korea is as much an art as a science, and the writers of intelligence reports are supposed to describe the degree of confidence in their sources in set terms.

The website of the director of national intelligence defines "high confidence" as indicating that "judgments are based on high-quality information, and/or that the nature of the issue makes it possible to render a solid judgment." Moderate confidence means "the information is credibly sourced and plausible but not of sufficient quality or corroborated sufficiently to warrant a higher level of confidence." Low confidence means the information's "credibility and/or plausibility is questionable, or that the information is too fragmented or poorly corroborated ... or that we have significant concerns or problems with the sources."

Kerry, who was headed to Beijing to seek Chinese help in persuading North Korea to halt its nuclear and missile testing, told reporters in Seoul that the North's progress on nuclear weapons, as described in the DIA report, pushed the country "closer to a line that is more dangerous." Kerry also was due to visit Japan.

"If Kim Jong Un decides to launch a missile, whether it's across the Sea of Japan or some other direction, he will be choosing willfully to ignore the entire international community," Kerry said. "And it will be a provocation and unwanted act that will raise people's temperatures."

The DIA report's assessment, written in March, was in line with a statement it issued two years earlier.

In March 2011, the agency's director, Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, told a Senate panel, "The North may now have several plutonium-based nuclear warheads that it can deliver by ballistic missiles and aircraft as well as by unconventional means."

David Albright, a leading North Korea expert at the Institute for Science and International Security, wrote in February, after the North's latest nuclear test, that he believes North Korea can mount a nuclear warhead on a shorter-range Nodong ballistic missile, whose estimated range of about 800 miles puts it within range of Japan.

"Pyongyang still lacks the ability to deploy a warhead on an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile), although it shows progress at this effort," Albright wrote.

Bruce Bennett, a Rand Corp. specialist on North Korea, said this week there is a "reasonable chance" that North Korea has short-range nuclear missile capability, but it is "very unlikely" that it has one that can reach the U.S.

While U.S. officials are watching for a missile test as early as this weekend, they are equally concerned about other actions the North Koreans might take to provoke a reaction either by the United States or South Korea.

Officials say that the U.S. has seen North Korea moving troops, trucks and other equipment arrayed along the Demilitarized Zone that separates the North and South. And they worry about the possibility Pyongyang could once again shell a South Korean island, torpedo a ship or perhaps fire artillery rounds at South Korean people or troops.

Limited attacks of that sort could be a greater threat because they would more likely result in injuries or deaths and could more quickly trigger a military response from South Korea or the U.S. and its allies.

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Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor, AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace and AP broadcast correspondent Sagar Meghani contributed to this report.

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Follow Robert Burns on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/robertburnsAP

 

Comments

luvblues2

Bring it...

Patrick OBrien

Propaganda.

Grandpa04

blow it up while its still on the launch pad.
Problem solved!!!

bullydogs1971

Just a little history....

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld presided over a $200 million dollar contract to deliver equipment and services to build two light water reactor stations in North Korea in January 2000 when he was an executive director of ABB (Asea Brown Boveri). Wolfram Eberhardt, a spokesman for ABB confirmed that Rumsfeld was at nearly all the board meetings during his involvement with the company.

http://www.infowars.com/who-gave...

Centauri

Thank you for posting that link. Americans need to hear the truth about the CIA and those who are eager to start wars. From bullydogs link:

"Amidst reports that North Korea now has nuclear-equipped ballistic missiles as experts warn a conflict on the Korean peninsular is more likely than not, it’s important to remember who armed North Korea with nuclear weapons in the first place – namely the U.S. government and the CIA."

"Both the Clinton and Bush administrations played a key role in helping the late Kim Jong-Il develop North Korea’s nuclear prowess from the mid 1990′s onwards."

"Construction of the reactors was eventually suspended, but North Korea had an alternative source through which they could obtain the nuclear secrets vital to building an atom bomb arsenal – CIA asset and international arms smuggler AQ Khan."

"Despite Dutch authorities being deeply suspicious of Khan’s activities as far back as 1975, the CIA prevented the Dutch from arresting him on two separate occasions."

"Given the documented history of the United States’ role in arming North Korea with the very weapons the reclusive state is now threatening to use against Americans, the constant drumbeat of fearmongering by the US media about North Korea’s intentions is missing a huge part of the story."

The entire news article is worth the time to read and do some further research of how the CIA has been deceiving the American people. The CIA is responsible for starting wars, arms smuggling, drug smuggling and assassinations of Americans who try to expose the truth. Some of these assassinations are covered up as suicides.

http://www.infowars.com/north-ko...
"President Bush publicly claimed to loathe Kim Jong-Il and yet his administration, like Bill Clinton before him, set the policy to help North Korea obtain nuclear expertise. The U.S. intelligence network also protected AQ Khan and allowed him to provide the means with which North Korea aqcuired their nuclear capability.

Now the corporate media, along with Obama, the UN, Israel and others, are expressing their grave condemnation that North Korea is testing the very same nuclear weapons technology that was initially bankrolled by the U.S. government itself. Sanctions are already in the pipeline and others are even talking of military confrontation, which could ultimately lead to a conflict with China, North Korea’s close neighbor and ally."

Another war in the making by the powers that be to send American boys and girls to war so that some rich and powerful people can make a lot more money.

gene44870

we just have to keep in mind that we didnt think Pearl Harbor couse be hit , and look what happened
let not leave anything to chance .

Centauri

http://www.infowars.com/declassi...
"Three days before the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt was warned in a memo from naval intelligence that Tokyo’s military and spy network was focused on Hawaii, a new and eerie reminder of FDR’s failure to act on a basket load of tips that war was near."

xtensionofme

I agree. We'd be foolish to assume North Korea wouldn't use whatever firepower they have at their disposal against the U.S. or any other country they perceive as being their enemy. As prior comments, as well as history have shown us, better safe than sorry.

gene44870

thats my whole point , He did and the U.S was caught in a bad way and a costly one at that .
This is why we dont want to chance weather or not Korean has the know how or not , We must assume for the safety of the People involved that he does and take the action needed to protect our intrests , Plan and simple . We have been caught twice and it cost us dearly , the other catch was 911 and before anyone says anything . I feel that the ones responable for both in my book are terrorists .
The only thing that I am regretting at this point was that we never really completed that war and signed a peace tresty , that was needed to really end the war .
Most people would say that it was not a war , but a police action .But the fact of the matter this war never really ended and in my book has to be the longest running war in the U.S history . Yea I agree that sense 1953 truce there was no blood shed , but the fact of the matter we were still at war with them
The only difference is now I feel that we can end this once and for all and fast

goofus

Yep it ranks right up there with LBJ's war on poverty

JohnDorian12

Why wait till they attack??? How many times do they have to threaten to blow us up before we make their country into a parking lot....but typical us we'll wait around till it's too late

thinkagain's picture
thinkagain

In a hurry for WW3?

starryeyes83

God, Just bomb them already !! we've been dic* king around for 50 plus years with these idiots. My Dad and uncles are all Korean War vets..

The Big Dog's back

Why blow it up? Then we have to fix it. We blew up Iraq and we're still paying to fix it.

KURTje

Rattle those sabers.

Really are you ...

We helped Saddam fight Iran. We helped Bin Laden fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. The United States helped these two foes well before 9-11. Bush and Clinton helped North Korea start their nuclear program. Are there false flag cards being played here to start another war? We still have not found Saddam's Weapons of Mass Destruction. A man who lived in a cave sent terrorists to the States to fly commercial airliners into the World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon. All kinds of possible false flags to go to war there. Of course this is all in my opinion. Have the UN, China or Russia go in and see if Jong Un really has nuclear weapons. I am sure that China is not happy with all of the nuclear radiation in the water, their main food source, from the Dihachi Fukushima disaster. I thought wars were suppose to help get us out of debt, instead of creating more and more debt. If Un has nuclear warheads tell him to disarm them, if he has them but will not, play the cards. Lets pray that China and Russia won't want to fight against the United States for starting a war with North Korea.

bullydogs1971

No one says it better than George!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C...