The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD -

Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, com­man­der of the U.S. Strate­gic Com­mand that di­rects Amer­ica’s nu­clear forces, re­cently warned that North Korea’s nu­clear mis­sile ca­pa­bil­ity is grow­ing and that he as­sumes Py­ongyang al­ready can threaten the United States.

Asked about re­cent in­tel­li­gence as­sess­ments in­di­cat­ing North Korea will field its long-range nu­clear mis­sile ca­pa­bil­ity sooner than ex­pected, Gen. Hyten said his cal­cu­la­tion of the mis­sile threat has not changed.

“I can’t put a date on it, but it’s not a mat­ter of if, it’s a mat­ter of when, and I have to as­sume that the ‘when’ is in the very near term,” Gen. Hyten told re­porters in Omaha, Ne­braska, last month.

Gen. Hyten said North Korea still must over­come “a num­ber of tech­ni­cal thresh­olds” be­fore the com­mu­nist state’s nu­clear mis­sile is fielded.

“You can get into de­bates with a num­ber of tech­ni­cal ex­perts, about ‘Well, they re­ally haven’t done this; they re­ally haven’t done that,’ or they’re a year away or two years away or five years away. All of those things from a mil­i­tary per­spec­tive, from a com­man­der’s per­spec­tive of U.S. Strate­gic Com­mand, I have to as­sume that it’s go­ing to be in the near term,” he said.

“And if we as­sume it’s go­ing to be in the near term, then we have to pos­tured to re­spond to that threat in the near term,” Gen. Hyten said. “Be­cause any­thing else cre­ates a po­si­tion of weak­ness in our de­ter­rent mes­sage and we don’t want to have any weak­ness in our de­ter­rent mes­sage.”

The com­man­der’s com­ments were made be­fore Pres­i­dent Trump un­leashed threat­en­ing rhetoric against the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Tues­day.

Mr. Trump an­nounced North Korea should back off mak­ing threats against the U.S. or face “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

The re­marks ap­peared to mimic North Korean state me­dia that fre­quently threat­ens to turn South Korea into a “sea of fire.” North Korea also has pro­duced pro­pa­ganda videos show­ing the sim­u­lated burn­ing of Washington and New York fol­low­ing a North Korean nu­clear strike.

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