News / Asia

Analysts Downplay US Report on N. Korean Missiles

A video grab from KCNA shows the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket launching at North Korea's West Sea Satellite Launch Site, at the satellite control center in Cholsan county, North Pyongang province, Dec. 13, 2012.A video grab from KCNA shows the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket launching at North Korea's West Sea Satellite Launch Site, at the satellite control center in Cholsan county, North Pyongang province, Dec. 13, 2012.
x
A video grab from KCNA shows the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket launching at North Korea's West Sea Satellite Launch Site, at the satellite control center in Cholsan county, North Pyongang province, Dec. 13, 2012.
A video grab from KCNA shows the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket launching at North Korea's West Sea Satellite Launch Site, at the satellite control center in Cholsan county, North Pyongang province, Dec. 13, 2012.
Analysts and officials are cautioning against drawing too many conclusions from the partial disclosure of a U.S. intelligence report that suggests North Korea has succeeded in being able to place a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile.

The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Pentagon's spy wing, has "moderate confidence" that North Korea has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by a ballistic missile, according to an unclassified portion of the report disclosed Thursday.

The partial report, unexpectedly revealed by U.S. Congressman Doug Lamborn during a routine budget hearing in Washington, was cautious, noting that U.S. defense officials still view the North Korean weapons technology as unreliable.

But the report is still significant because it marks the first time U.S. officials have publicly suggested that North Korea has succeeded in miniaturizing a nuclear weapon, a development that would represent an important new threat in Pyongyang's arsenal.

Still untested

Tensions Rising on Korean Peninsula

  • February 12: North Korea carries out third nuclear test
  • March 27: North Korea cuts military hotline with South Korea
  • March 28: U.S. B-2 bombers fly over Korean peninsula
  • March 30: North Korea says it has entered a "state of war" with South Korea
  • April 3: North Korea blocks South Korean workers from Kaesong
  • April 4: North Korea moves a missile to its east coast
  • April 9: North Korea urges foreigners to leave the South.  The U.S. and South Korea raise alert level
  • April 14: US Secretary of State John Kerry offers talks with Pyongyang if it moves to scrap nuclear weapons
  • April 16: North Korea issues threats after anti-Pyongyang protests in Seoul
  • April 29: North Korea holds back seven South Koreans at Kaesong
  • April 30: North Korea sentences American to 15 years hard labor for hostile acts
  • May 20: North Korea fires projectiles for a consecutive third day
  • May 24: North Korean envoy wraps up China visit for talks on Korean tensions
  • June 7: South Korea accepts Pyongyang's offer of talks on Kaesong and other issues
U.S. defense and intelligence officials immediately downplayed the leaked contents of the report, making clear that Washington still does not consider North Korea a nuclear weapons state.

“It would be inaccurate to suggest that the North Korean regime has fully tested, developed, or demonstrated the kinds of nuclear capabilities referenced in the passage," said Pentagon spokesperson George Little in a statement.

The U.S. director of national intelligence, James Clapper, cautioned the DIA assessment does not reflect the consensus of the U.S. intelligence community. "North Korea has not yet demonstrated the full range of capabilities necessary for a nuclear-armed missile," he said.

North Korea has so far conducted three nuclear tests. The latest, in February, used what Pyongyang called a "smaller and lighter" atomic bomb. In December, it also succeeded in using a long-range rocket to place a satellite into orbit.

Both tests were seen as key steps toward North Korea's stated goal of being able to strike the U.S. mainland with a nuclear weapon. But many analysts say North Korea needs years of additional research, development, and tests before this goal can be realized.

Not only does North Korea need to make a nuclear device small enough to be placed on a missile, analysts say it also must develop reliable long-range missiles and a guidance system able to bring the missile back to earth once it has reached orbit.

 Not much known

The DIA assessment highlights how much U.S. intelligence officials do not know about the advancements of North Korea's nuclear weapons program, says Cedric Leighton, a retired U.S. Air Force intelligence officer.

"I think what the report indicates is that the intelligence community is continuing its assessment of North Korean capabilities," says Leighton, who now runs his own intelligence management consultancy.

"They are not conclusive in their statements," he says. "When you talk about 'moderate confidence' and things of that nature, those are careful terms and are deliberately chosen," he says.

Leighton also warns against focusing on just one portion of a much larger, classified report. He says the entire analysis likely portrayed a much more complex picture of the situation.

But Bruce Bennett of the RAND Corporation believes the North's nuclear program is likely more advanced than many Western intelligence agencies assume.

"Certainly North Korea hasn't tested putting a nuclear weapon on a ballistic missile," says Bennett. "But for some time there have been reports in Korea that North Korea has already had or will shortly have that kind of capability."

Bennett says there is reason for heightened concern, especially since North Korea has threatened to conduct yet another weapons test with the mid-range missiles that intelligence agencies say have been moved to its east coast.

Many expect the test to take place during the run-up to Monday's birthday celebration of North Korea's late founding leader, Kim Il Sung.

VOA's Victor Beattie contributed to this report

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: NVO from: USA
April 12, 2013 1:19 PM
The USA so-called "Government" is to blame re who supplied NK with the very nukes that they threaten us with now. Your own government!!! In September 2005 it emerged that the Amsterdam court which sentenced Khan to four years imprisonment in 1983 had lost the legal files pertaining to the case. The court’s vice-president, Judge Anita Leeser, accused the CIA of stealing the files. “Something is not right, we just don’t lose things like that,” she told Dutch news show NOVA. “I find it bewildering that people lose files with a political goal, especially if it is on request of the CIA. It is unheard of.”

In 2005, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf acknowledged that Khan had provided centrifuges and their designs to North Korea.

Through their policies in aiding North Korea to build light water reactors, and via the CIA asset AQ Khan who was protected at every step of the way while he helped provide North Korea with the means to build a nuclear arsenal, the U.S. government itself was directly complicit in providing North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il and now his successor Kim Jong-un with the nuclear weapons that have now caused an international crisis with the Korean peninsula on the brink of war.

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.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs