N Korea capable of making nuclear weapon: Pentagon

White House tries to tamp down concerns over intelligence report,says North hasn’t demonstrated capability of deploying missile

Written by New York Times | Washington | Published: April 13, 2013 1:46 am

THOM SHANKER,DAVID E SANGER & ERIC SCHMITT

A NEW assessment by the Pentagon’s intelligence arm has concluded for the first time,with “moderate confidence”,that North Korea has learned how to make a nuclear weapon small enough to be delivered by a ballistic missile.

The assessment by the Defence Intelligence Agency,which has been distributed to senior administration officials and members of Congress,cautions that the weapon’s “reliability will be low”,apparently a reference to the North’s difficulty in developing accurate missiles or,perhaps,to the huge technical challenges of designing a warhead that can survive the rigours of flight and detonate on a specific target.

The assessment’s existence was disclosed Thursday by Representative Doug Lamborn,Republican of Colorado,three hours into a budget hearing of the House Armed Services Committee with Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,Gen. Martin E Dempsey. General Dempsey declined to comment on the assessment because of classification issues.

But late Thursday,director of national intelligence James R Clapper Jr. released a statement saying the assessment did not represent a consensus of the nation’s intelligence community and that “North Korea has not yet demonstrated the full range of capabilities necessary for a nuclear armed missile”.

A spokesman for the South Korean Defence Ministry,Kim Min-seok,early Friday said despite various assessments,“we have doubt North Korea has reached the stage of miniaturization”.

Meanwhile,the White House,while trying to tamp down concerns over the report, said Pyongyang has not demonstrated the capability to launch such a nuclear armed missile,Reuters reported.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters it “is not simple” to take that step. However,Carney said North Korea continued to express a desire to seek nuclear weapons capabilities. That,he said,was a “matter of concern” for the United States.

The US,Carney said,had responded to the provocative actions,as well as the stepped-up bellicose rhetoric,by taking a series of prudent measures to ensure the US and its allies are defended.

China holds live drills along North Korean border

BEIJING: China has conducted live fire drills along its borders with North Korea,marking the first military activity in the area since Pyongyang stepped up threats to attack South Korea and the US. Tanks and armoured vehicles from a Shenyang military unit took part in the drills on the Chinese side,Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported. The Chinese Defence Ministry however has denied all the media reports. PTI

Japan to move Patriot missiles to Okinawa

Tokyo: Japan said Friday it would deploy Patriot missiles in Okinawa permanently from this month as part of its efforts to boost defence capability amid concerns over North Korea’s missile threat. Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said his ministry would station PAC-3 systems at two military bases in the Japanese island “at the earliest opportunity in April”. PTI

‘N-test will be huge mistake for Kim’

SEOUL: US SECRETARY of State John Kerry delivered a stark warning to North Korea Friday not to test-fire a mid-range missile,while rejecting a new US intelligence report suggesting significant progress in the communist regime’s nuclear weapons programme.

Kicking off four days of talks in an East Asia beset by increasing North Korean threats,Kerry told reporters in Seoul Pyongyang and its enigmatic young leader would only increase their isolation if they launched the missile that American officials believe has a range of some 2,500 miles — or enough to reach the US territory of Guam.

“If Kim Jong Un decides to launch a missile,whether it’s across the Sea of Japan or some other direction,he will be choosing willfully to ignore the entire international community,” Kerry told reporters. “And it will be a provocation and unwanted act that will raise people’s temperatures.”

Kerry said the test would be a “huge mistake” for Kim.

“It will further isolate his country and further isolate his people who are desperate for food and not missile launches,” he warned.

Kerry’s diplomatic tour,while planned long in advance,is unusual in that it brings him directly to a region of escalated tension and precisely at a time when North Korea is threatening action. The North often times its military and nuclear tests to generate maximum attention,and Kerry’s presence on the peninsula alone risked spurring Pyongyang into another provocation. Another key date is the 101st birthday of the nation’s founder,Kim Il Sung,on April 15.

“Our position is very clear.. We will stand with South Korea and Japan against these threats. And we will defend ourselves,” Kerry said. Associated Press

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