Pentagon: North Korea not yet capable of striking U.S.

WASHINGTON, April 14 (UPI) — North Korea’s missiles aren’t capable of hitting the continental United States, U.S. defense officials said at a Senate hearing.

Pyongyang, however, is improving on its weapons technology, according to Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Brian McKeon.

According to the U.S. official’s testimony Wednesday, North Korea is “seeking to develop longer-range ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons to the United States, and continues efforts to bring its KN-08 road-mobile [intercontinental ballistic missile] to operational capacity.”

The KN-08 is a road-mobile ICBM that was first displayed as a mock-up during a 2012 North Korea parade. In theory, the KN-08 could pose a threat to the continental United States and could travel up to 5,600 miles.

But McKeon said the reliability of an untested North Korean ICBM is likely to be “very low,” although Pyongyang has used the Taepodong-2 missile to place a satellite in orbit.

Adm. Bill Gortney of the U.S. Northern Command also said North Korea’s threat capability remains low, but the United States and its allies must carefully prepare for any future events.

Threats loom for various reasons, Gortney said.

“Kim Jong Un is unlikely to attack our homeland unless he perceives an imminent threat to his regime’s survival,” the senior military official said, adding that he’s concerned North Korea’s eventual possession of a nuclear ICBM could “embolden the regime’s intransigence below the nuclear threshold and complicate our response on the peninsula.”

Gortney said the United States should continue to develop options for effective ballistic missile defense, adding that he is in agreement with Seoul on its appraisal of North Korea’s mid-range ballistic missile capability.

South Korea has stated that the North’s intermediate-range projectiles are capable of hitting the South and Japan.

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