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

Despite Launch, North Korea's Missile Technology Still Far Behindi
|| 0:00:00
X
Luis Ramirez
December 13, 2012 1:52 PM
North Korea’s first successful long-range missile launch shows Pyongyang has advanced its capabilities, but analysts say the North is a long way from being able to threaten the United States. VOA Pentagon correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid