North Korea has an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to Alaska or Hawaii and within a few months could have the capacity to strike the West Coast. That’s the opinion of long-time aerospace engineer John Schilling in a column for 38 North, which is a project of the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).
Schilling’s column was posted after North Korea tested its latest missile July 3. The country said it was ICBM.
“The emerging reality is that the North has an unreliable missile that can reach Alaska or Hawaii with a single nuclear warhead, and would be lucky to hit even a city-sized target,” Schilling wrote before warning: “However, with a year or two of additional testing and development, it will likely become a missile that can reliably deliver a single nuclear warhead to targets along the US west coast, possibly with enough accuracy to destroy soft military targets like naval bases.”
In five years, he added, North Korea “may be able to incorporate a modest suite of decoys and penetration aids to challenge US missile defenses.”
“Let’s hope US missile defenses are up to that challenge,” he wrote.
Schilling has more than 20 years of experience — most of that time supporting U.S. civil and military space programs.
The current U.S. anti-missile defense system, Schilling wrote, is unreliable and works only “about half the time.”
“North Korea has to consider that deploying an operational ICBM would motivate the United States to improve its defenses,” he wrote. “They can’t possibly hope to build more ICBMs than the US can build missile defense interceptors. But if they can put a dozen or so effective decoys on each missile—that might be enough to maintain a credible deterrent.”
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