News / Asia

N. Korean Missiles Don't Threaten US Yet, Analysts Say

Image taken and released by the Korean Central News Agency and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service, the Unha-3 rocket lifts off from a launch site on the west coast, in the village of Tongchang-ri, about 56 kilometers (35 miles) from the Chines
Image taken and released by the Korean Central News Agency and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service, the Unha-3 rocket lifts off from a launch site on the west coast, in the village of Tongchang-ri, about 56 kilometers (35 miles) from the Chines
Analysts say North Korea's successful launch of a long-range rocket is a major achievement for a country that has long wanted to obtain the capability to strike North America with nuclear weapons. But they say Pyongyang must still make several major technological advances before that threat becomes a reality.

South Korea's Defense Ministry on Thursday acknowledged the launch succeeded in placing a satellite into space, even if it could not confirm whether it was functional. Spokesperson Kim Min-seok said the satellite weighs about 100 kilograms, far less than the payload of a nuclear warhead.

"A nuclear warhead weighs about 650 kilograms. [To have the full capability to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM] North Korea needs to concentrate on putting more effort into increasing weight on board," Kim said.

Ralph Cossa, the director of the Hawaii-based Pacific Forum, told VOA that another challenge facing North Korea is that it still must figure out how to make a nuclear weapon small enough to fit on a missile. He says this would require many more tests.

"This doesn't mean they have miniaturized [a nuclear weapon] that is capable now of being put on a rocket and launched at something and then being capable of hitting whatever it was launched at,"noted Cossa. "A number of additional skills and tests need to happen for something like that to be confirmed."

Michael McKinley, an Asian security expert at Australian National University, tells VOA that the size of the nuclear warhead is not the only issue limiting North Korea. He says even though it can fire a rocket into space, that does not mean it has figured out how to make it hit a target on Earth.

"Yes, it's up there, so it's an increase in their technological competence in North Korea," McKinley said. "There's no evidence at this stage that North Korea knows how to conduct the re-entry phase that would be needed if it were to target a foreign country."

McKinley said he does expect North Korea to achieve progress in these areas. He says that progress could begin with a third underground nuclear test, as well as repeated missile tests to ensure it has mastered all phases of the launch of an ICBM.

But many analysts, including McKinley, agree that even if North Korea were to achieve the ability to threaten America with a long-range ballistic missile, it would be unlikely to use it.

"If we take the really worst-case scenario at the moment - that North Korea can eventually put together a small amount of missiles capable of launching 6,000 - 8000 miles from home, the question then is, why would they want to do it? Any attempt, for example, to attack the United States means oblivion for North Korea," McKinley said.

Some analysts say North Korea's recent success means former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates may have been right when he predicted two years ago that Pyongyang could develop a missile that could hit the continental U.S. by 2015.

But in any case, current defense secretary, Leon Panetta, told CNN on Wednesday he is "confident" the U.S. could stop an incoming missile from North Korea using America's "very strong missile defense system."

Related video story by Luis Ramirez

You May Like

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Video One Year After Massacre, Iraq’s Yazidis a Broken People

Minority community still recovering from devastating assault by IS militants which spurred massive outrage More

‘Malvertisements’ Undermine Internet Trust

Hackers increasingly prey on users' trust of major websites to delivery malicious software More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Pegasus from: Australia
December 13, 2012 4:51 PM
quoting from Richard Heuer's Book; Psychology of Intelligence Analysis, "people and governments also tend to overestimate their own importance as targets of others actions." I would say that reading about the Korean War, the North Koreans may have more resentment against their close neighbours in the South (Assuming that they have trade deals with Russia and China) mostly this past year the U.S has given the NK most of its overseas aid when they needed it, therefore what purpose would NK have to send a nuclear weapon to the United states? on another note, if NK was developing nuclear weapons with a plan to launch against the United States then their (U.S.) advanced intelligence and tracking systems could intercept the rocket well on its path with no danger

by: Kitagawa Keikoh from: Tamagawa
December 13, 2012 11:26 AM
For you Americans, it is not a problem that North Korea has a capability of launching nuclear weapons, because the land of US is too far from N.Korea.
But for us Japanease and Korean people, it is a big problem they have missiles like that. They have ability of targeting our land even if the targeting acuracy is not enough.
In Response

by: Lobojack from: Switzerland
December 13, 2012 3:58 PM
So what ? A lot of hot air about this North Korean launch. They have as much right as any other country to launch satellites. All countries are equal. Or is it , as Orwell would say, that some countries are more equal tha others ???

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs