Conflict & Justice

North Korea nuclear missile has 'low reliability,' defense department says


Replicas of a North Korean Scud-B missile (C-behind) and South Korean Hawk surface-to-air missiles (foreground) are seen at the Korean War Memorial in Seoul on February 17, 2011.


Jung Yeon-Je

While the Pentagon now believes that North Korea has a nuclear device small enough to be launched by ballistic missile, the likelihood of anything hitting the US remains low.

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) revealed the intelligence and elevated opinion of NKorea during a House Armed Services Committee budget hearing today, The New York Times reported.

The Defense Intelligence Agency distributed the opinion to White House officials and members of Congress, saying it can upgrade its assessment of North Korean threats with “moderate confidence.”

The agency did temper its expectations of the North’s military power by saying “reliability will be low” of a nuclear missile strike.

Lamborn revealed what he called “unclassified” information while questioning Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, The Washington Post reported.

The revelation marks a significant change in US opinion of Kim Jong Un’s recent saber rattling, one North Korean expert told The Post.

Jeffrey Lewis of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies called it “the clearest, most direct statement that North Korea has a miniaturized warhead.”

However, security experts still suggest the North Korean leader has ramped up his rhetoric to win concessions on international sanctions.

Kim has threatened South Korea, Japan and US targets in the Pacific.

The DIA report presented by Lamborn didn’t include information about the range of a North Korean nuke, the Associated Press said.

Furthermore, Dempsey wouldn’t comment on the report’s findings, telling Lamborn “it’s not publicly released, so I choose not to comment on it.”

Yet, Dempsey told a news conference on Wednesday that based on the North’s recent nuclear tests, it made sense to plan against a nuclear missile.

“And in the absence of concrete evidence to the contrary, we have to assume the worst case, and that’s why we’re postured as we are today,” he said, according to the AP.

More from GlobalPost: South Korea prepares for seemingly imminent North Korean missile launch