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

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen; decision could come Monday More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid