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.

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