Hundreds of N. Korea missiles threaten Asia: researchers
Nuclear- armed North Korea already has hundreds of ballistic missiles that can target its neighbors in Northeast Asia but will need foreign technology to upgrade its arsenal and pose a more direct threat to the United States, U.S. researchers said Tuesday.
Those are the latest findings of a research program investigating what secretive North Korea’s nuclear weapons capability will be by 2020.
Unlike Iran, the current focus of international nuclear diplomacy, North Korea has conducted atomic test explosions. Its blood-curdling rhetoric and periodic missile tests have set the region on edge and there’s no sign of negotiations restarting to coax it into disarming.
For now, the emphasis is on sanctions and military preparedness. Defense Secretary Ash Carter visits Japan and South Korea this week amid speculation the U.S. wants to place a missile defense system in South Korea against North Korean ballistic missiles, which Seoul is reluctant about as it would alienate China. The U.S. has already deployed anti-missile radar in Japan.
U.S. military officials have expressed growing concern about North Korea’s capabilities. Navy Adm. William Gortney, commander of U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, told reporters Tuesday that it is the U.S. assessment that North Korea has the ability to miniaturize a warhead to put on an intercontinental ballistic missile.
U.S. officials are most concerned about a long-range missile called the KN-08 that has been displayed in military parades. It is said to be capable of being launched from a road-mobile vehicle and would therefore be difficult to monitor via satellite.
But the research published Tuesday by the North Korean Futures Project stresses that for now the principal threat from North Korean missiles is to its neighbors in Asia. The project is conducted by the U.S.-Korea Institute at John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and National Defense University’s Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Aerospace engineer John Schilling and a research associate at the institute, Henry Kan, say Pyongyang’s current inventory of about 1,000 missiles, based on old Soviet technology, can already reach most targets in South Korea and Japan.