As if Iranian nuclear weapons weren’t already a worry for us (and more so Israel), now the North Koreans are one step closer to having an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the continental United States. Jack Kim and Mayumi Negishi reported on the Reuters website this morning:
North Korea successfully launched a rocket on Wednesday, boosting the credentials of its new leader and stepping up the threat the isolated and impoverished state poses to opponents.
The rocket, which North Korea says put a weather satellite into orbit, has been labeled by the United States, South Korea and Japan as a test of technology that could one day deliver a nuclear warhead capable of hitting targets as far away as the continental United States.
According to Kim and Negishi, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) verified the North Koreans’ claims.
And here’s something that’s particularly worrisome- if it’s true. From the article:
U.S. intelligence has linked North Korea with missile shipments to Iran. Newspapers in Japan and South Korea have reported that Iranian observers were in the North for the launch, something Iran has denied.
Great. Just great.
So what kind of timeframe are we talking about here before North Korea has an ICBM capable of reaching and hitting the continental U.S.?
Well, Elisabeth Bumiller and David Sanger reported on The New York Times website back on January 11, 2001:
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates warned Tuesday that North Korea was within five years of being able to strike the continental United States with an intercontinental ballistic missile, and said that, combined with its expanding nuclear program, the country “is becoming a direct threat to the United States.”
Mr. Gates is a former director of the C.I.A., and his statement, officials said, reflected both a new assessment by American intelligence officials and his own concern that Washington had consistently underestimated the pace at which the North was developing nuclear and missile technologies.
Considering that statement was made almost a year ago, it could be only 4 years before North Korea is able to hit the continental U.S. via a nuclear-armed missile.
From an AFP piece this morning:
“This launch certainly bolsters their credibility when they say that they have missiles that can strike the United States,” said James Schoff, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“It’s harder to wave that off after a successful test like this,” said Schoff, a former Pentagon official.
It looks to me that the United States is most likely looking at a nuclear-armed Iran and an ICBM-armed North Korea down the road.
Kim, Jack and Negishi, Mayumi. “North Korea launches rocket, raising nuclear arms stakes.” Reuters. 12 Dec. 2012. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/12/us-korea-north-rocket-idUSBRE8BB02K20121212). 12 Dec. 2012.
Bumiller, Elisabeth and Sanger, David E. “Gates Warns of North Korea Missile Threat to U.S.” The New York Times. 11 Jan. 2011. (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/12/world/asia/12military.html?_r=0). 12 Dec. 2012.
“North Korea rocket raises nuclear stakes, poses threat to US: Analysts.” Agence France-Presse. 12 Dec. 2012. (http://www.straitstimes.com/breaking-news/asia/story/n-korea-rocket-raises-nuclear-stakes-analysts-20121212). 12 Dec. 2012.
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