Vice Adm. James Syring, head of the US’s Missile Defence Agency, told the House Armed Services committee on Wednesday that the US “must assume that North Korea can reach us with a ballistic missile.”
“I would not say we are comfortably ahead of the threat,” said Syring, acknowledging the surprising strides that North Korea has made in developing the range of their missile forces.
“The advancements in the last six months have caused great concern to me and others in the advancement of and demonstration of technology of ballistic missiles from North Korea,” said Syring.
Syring stressed that while US missile defences have made great progress, the threats persist.
While the US just demonstrated that the ground-based midcourse defence system can knock down a mock-ICBM in test settings, a real attack from US would be much harder to defend against.
Though North Korea has never tested a missile that can range the US mainland, they have shown off a number of technologies that lead up to the development of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Syring’s testimony displays a level of uncertainty around North Korea’s missile program.
Though the US can achieve small victories in test scenarios, a determined foe can send multitudes of missiles, decoys, and employ countermeasures against defences.
“Missile defence is not a surefire way to negate the threat posed by another country’s nuclear-capable ballistic missiles,” Kelsey Davenport, the director of nonproliferation at the Arms Control Association, previously told Business Insider.
Instead, if North Korea does have a nuclear weapon that can hit the US, it’s deterrence — not missile defence — that are most likely keeping Kim Jong Un’s finger off the trigger.
While North Korea may have a handful of nuclear weapons that can wreak havoc on the US, the US certainly has hundreds of percision-guided nukes that can streak across the sky and level Pyongyang in a moment’s notice.