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Thursday, April 4, 2013

North Korea lacks means for nuclear strike on US, experts say

Soldiers from South Korea (R) and North Korea (C) stand guard on their respective sides at the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas on April 4, 2013.

North Korea's explicit threats this week to strike the United States with nuclear weapons are rhetorical bluster, as the isolated nation does not yet have the means to make good on them, Western officials and security experts say.

Pyongyang has slowly and steadily improved its missile capabilities in recent years and US officials say its missiles may be capable of hitting outlying US territories and states, including Guam, Alaska and Hawaii.

Some private experts say even this view is alarmist. There is no evidence, the officials say, that North Korea has tested the complex art of miniaturizing a nuclear weapon to be placed on a long-range missile, a capability the United States, Russia, China and others achieved decades ago.

In other words, North Korea might be able to hit some part of the United States, but not the mainland and not with a nuclear weapon.

The threats against the United States by North Korea's young leader Kim Jong-un are "probably all bluster," said Gary Samore, until recently the top nuclear proliferation expert on President Barack Obama's national security staff.

"It's extremely unlikely they have a nuclear missile which could reach the United States," said Samore.

The North Koreans "are not suicidal. They know that any kind of direct attack (on the United States) would be end of their country," said Samore, now at Harvard University's Kennedy School.

On Wednesday, North Korea's state-run KCNA news agency said its military had "ratified" an attack involving "cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means," an apparent reference to miniaturized nuclear weapons.

It was the latest in a stream of invective from Pyongyang against what it apparently sees as hostile US-South Korean military exercises, and UN sanctions imposed after its latest underground nuclear test.

Also on Wednesday, the Pentagon said it was moving a missile defense system known as the THAAD, or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, to Guam, which Pyongyang has specifically threatened.

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Tags:  north  korea  lacks  nuclear  strike  





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