North Korea may be capable of doing some serious damage, US official warns
North Korea may now be capable of launching a nuclear weapon that can do some serious damage — provided it can actually hit a target.
A senior US military official has warned Pyongyang is able to mount a warhead on a missile, but is yet to master accurately striking any of its intended targets.
He also said the reclusive country may not have the re-entry capabilities for a strategic strike.
“Truthfully, they have the capability right now to be able to deliver a nuclear weapon, they are just not sure about re-entry, that’s why they continue to test their systems out there,” said the anonymous official, who was not authorised to discuss the issue publicly.
That would include the ability of the weapon to get back through the atmosphere without burning up and the ability to hit the intended site.
The US military understands North Korea is continuing its attempt to overcome those limitations.
The Pentagon is continuing to revise its contingency plans regarding a North Korean strike, which includes deploying an advanced missile defence system in South Korea following increased testing in Pyongyang.
The military routinely develops plans for all threat possibilities.
“It is the threat that keeps me awake at night,” said the official.
“You’ve heard other senior leaders say the same thing, primarily because we don’t know what the ‘Dear Leader’ in North Korea really is after.”
North Korea has been making steady progress in its nuclear and missile programs since its dictator Kim Jong-un came to power in 2011.
The country recently claimed a series of technical breakthroughs in its goal of developing a long-range nuclear missile capable of reaching the United States.
In August, the reclusive country fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile towards Japan, prompting Kim to say North Korea “was fully equipped with nuclear capability”.
The missile flew about 500km, but South Korea’s media believed the high angle it was launched on indicated it could travel twice as far at an ordinary trajectory.
South Korean defence officials say North Korea doesn’t yet have such a weapon, but a number of civilian experts believe the North has the technology to mount warheads on shorter-range Rodong and Scud missiles that can strike South Korea and Japan.
It’s also believed North Korea could have medium-range missiles capable of striking American military bases in the Pacific, with some experts suggesting they could hit the western United States as early as 2020.
However, a top North Korean diplomat recently said Pyongyang does not intend on engaging in missile or nuclear provocations until President-elect Donald Trump lays out his plans for America’s relations with the country.
Earlier this week, Radio Free Asia reported that Choe Son-hui, director general of the US Affairs Department of the North’s Foreign Ministry, said North Korea “would not take action that might close the door before seeing what emerges”.
She reportedly expressed hope the Trump administration would review its policy toward the North.
While experts have previously told news.com.au Australia would be an “easy target” for striking, it’s unlikely we’d be attacked due to how sparsely populated the country is.
As we don’t have a huge strategic importance or many military operations, the country will likely continue to focus on targeting South Korea, Japan and the US.