North Korea can launch nuclear missiles, U.S. spy agency says

WASHINGTON/SEOUL Thu Apr 11, 2013 6:26pm EDT

1 of 8. South Korean soldiers stand guard at an observation post near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) which separates the two Koreas in Paju, north of Seoul April 11, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji

Related Video

WASHINGTON/SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea has the ability to launch nuclear-armed ballistic missiles, although they would likely be unreliable, a Pentagon spy agency has concluded, as the United States and South Korea kept watch on Thursday for a missile test-launch by Pyongyang.

The Defense Intelligence Agency study, dated last month, appeared to be the first time the agency had reached such a conclusion.

"DIA assesses with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles, however the reliability will be low," said Republican U.S. Representative Doug Lamborn, who disclosed the conclusion during a congressional hearing on Thursday.

Lamborn said the agency reached the conclusion in a mostly classified March 2013 report. He did not say what range the nuclear-capable North Korean missiles might have.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, declined to comment when asked if he agreed with that assessment, saying he had not seen the report.

The strong consensus inside the U.S. government is that North Korea does not yet have a nuclear device that would fit longer-range missiles which conceivably could reach U.S. territories.

Despite recent threats to attack U.S. bases and the South, North Korea started to welcome a stream of visitors for Monday's celebrations marking the birthday of its founder Kim Il-sung.

U.S. President Barack Obama said the United States would work diplomatically to reduce tensions with North Korea, while warning that Washington would take "all necessary steps" to protect America and its allies.

Obama met at the White House on Thursday with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who called for China and other nations with influence over North Korea to help calm the situation.

North Korea has stationed as many as five medium-range missiles on its east coast, according to defense assessments by Washington and Seoul, possibly in readiness for a test-launch that would demonstrate its ability to hit U.S. bases on Guam.

"There are signs the North could fire off Musudan missiles any time soon," an unnamed intelligence source in Seoul told Yonhap news agency.

Most observers say Pyongyang has no intention of starting a war that would likely bring its own destruction, but they warn of the risks of miscalculation on the highly militarized Korean peninsula.

(Additional reporting by Jack Kim and Daum Kim in SEOUL, Sui-Lee Wee in BEIJING, John Ruwitch in SHANGHAI, and Patricia Zengerle, Mark Hosenball and Jeff Mason in Washington; Writing by Peter Cooney, Editing by Jim Loney)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (18)
amos033 wrote:
Now we understand how Israel’s feels about Iran’s quest for nukes and their apprehension; now that the shoe is on the other foot.

Apr 11, 2013 5:39am EDT  --  Report as abuse
tonydfixer wrote:
the military women look battle hardened with those high heels, this is a joke, right?

Apr 11, 2013 7:39am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Dragon50 wrote:
I have the following question.I read in the news that American Military has the ability to project the missiles projection within seconds of take off.But how can they do that when they don’t know how much fuel has been injected.I remember in the second world war the Germans had V2 bombs which was injected with just enought fuel to reach London and simply fell from the sky.Should the North Koreans launch a Missile with a projected destination the Pacific Ocean and simply run out of Fuel over Japan.I was watching the the news where Senator Mcain asked the Pacific Admiral,if he would shot down a missile heading anywhere his Response was “I do not recommend that” I think without knowing how much fuel is in the missiles he should reconsider his action as the potential is there.

Apr 11, 2013 7:43am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.