A new report by the Pentagon’s intelligence arm has concluded, with “moderate confidence,” that North Korea (DPRK) has learned how to make a “low reliability” nuclear weapon small enough to be delivered by a ballistic missile, Eli Lake of the Daily Beast reports.
It is the first time that the U.S. has reached that assessment.
The executive summary of the defence Intelligence Agency report, which is titled “Dynamic Threat Assessment 8099: North Korea Nuclear Weapons Program,” says:
D.I.A. assesses with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles; however the reliability will be low.
The New York Times reports that the reliability may refer to the difficulty of developing accurate missiles or “the huge technical challenges of designing a warhead that can survive the rigors of flight and detonate on a specific target.”
North Korea currently has multiple medium-range Musudan ballistic missiles set up on it’s east coast and on Wednesday South Korea’s foreign minister warned that DPRK could launch its “any time from now.”
The untested Musudan has a potential range of 1,550 miles to 2,500 miles, meaning it could reach Japan, South Korea, and almost as far as U.S. island territory of Guam.
The assessment informs America’s decision to deploy a THAAD anti-ballistic missile defence system and B-1 Lancer long-range bombers (nicknamed “Bones”) to Guam in addition to moving F-22 Raptor stealth fighters in South Korea. Japan has deployed three Patriot missile-defence systems.
Lake notes that the executive summary was read aloud on Thursday by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) during a House Armed Services Committee hearing.
The Times notes that the DIA — which primarily monitors the missile capabilities of adversary nations — was among the agencies that insisted Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons in the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
On Wednesday Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Congressional hearing that DPRK leader Kim Jong-un’s endgame appears to be “to somehow elicit recognition from … the United States [that] North Korea … [is] a nuclear power, and that that entitles him to negotiation and to accommodation, and presumably for aid.”
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