News Column

North Korea Could Arm Missile With Nuclear Warhead

April 12, 2013

As newly revealed U.S. intelligence showed North Korea may already be able to arm a missile with a nuclear warhead, President Obama said Thursday that North Korea must end its "belligerent approach."

After meeting with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon at the White House on Thursday, Obama said they both agreed that it was time to "lower temperatures."

"Nobody wants to see a conflict on the Korean Peninsula, but it's important for North Korea, like every other country in the world, to observe the basic rules and norms that are set forth, including a wide variety of U.N. resolutions," Obama said.

Obama's rebuke came as a new U.S. intelligence report was made public showing North Korea likely has the ability to arm a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead, though the weapon wouldn't be very reliable.

The latest U.S. intelligence assessment on North Korea was revealed Thursday at a public hearing on Capitol Hill. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., read from what he said was an unclassified segment of a classified Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report on North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

The report shows that DIA has "moderate confidence" that North Korea possesses the ability to put a nuclear weapon on a missile, according to a senior Pentagon official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the report.

The report, the official said, concludes the reliability of such a weapon would be low.

James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, said the report was not an intelligence community assessment and "North Korea has not yet demonstrated the full range of capabilities necessary for a nuclear-armed missile."

Pentagon press secretary George Little also downplayed the threat. "While I cannot speak to all the details of a report that is classified in its entirety, 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," Pentagon press secretary George Little said.

The United States, South Korea and other countries have become increasingly alarmed by Kim Jong Un's provocative rhetoric.

For weeks, North Korea has made threats against the United States and South Korea.

North Korea also this week told foreign diplomats that it would no longer be able to guarantee the safety of foreigners in Seoul.

Obama and the secretary-general met after reports that a North Korean missile had been briefly raised to an upright firing position, stoking concerns that a launch is imminent.

"We will continue to try to work to resolve some of those issues diplomatically," Obama said, but "the United States will take all necessary steps to protect its people and to meet our obligations under our alliances in the region."

Earlier Thursday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the House Armed Services Committee that the Pentagon will have enough resources under Obama's new budget proposal to cope with North Korea.

Republicans weren't convinced.

"I'd like to hear which missions we must now abandon, reduce or cancel outright to comply with the president's budget -- because I don't see the world getting safer," said Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., Armed Services Committee chairman.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testifies Thursday before the House Armed Services Committee on the Defense Department's budget request for fiscal year 2014.

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013

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