North Korea is on track to build a reliable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to mainland American cities next year, a major military report says.
Analysts at the government’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) have concluded in the report that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) will be able to build a “reliable, nuclear-capable ICBM” that could strike American cities as early as next year, The Washington Post reported.
That is two to three years quicker than previously thought.
The confidential DIA assessment obtained by The Post says that North Korea could begin production on such a missile within a few months. The only obstacle is the ability to design a missile that can re-enter the atmosphere without damaging the warhead. But the report assumes the North Koreans will pass that test soon.
“They’re on track to do that, essentially this week,” an anonymous intelligence official told The Post.
An ICBM from North Korea would need to enter space before targeting an American city.
“Now they are approaching the final stage of being a nuclear power and the owner of an ICBM,” Cha Du-hyeogn, an advisor to South Korea’s former president, told The Post.
North Korea’s rapid military gains have caught many off-guard.
“The speed of North Korea’s ICBM missile development is faster than the South Korean Defense Ministry expected,” South Korea lawmaker Lee Cheol-hee told the press.
“There has been alarming progress,” said Joseph De Trani, a former manager at the office of the Director of National Intelligence. “In the last year they have gained capabilities that they didn’t have, including ones that we thought they would not have been able to obtain for years.”
U.S. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) says he fears America won’t be ready.
“The apparent success of the July Fourth test is an alarming development as North Korea accelerates its pursuit of being able to hold the United States at risk with nuclear weapons,” Thornberry said after a classified briefing from the DIA and military officials.
The Defense Intelligence Agency, unlike the CIA, is tasked with providing purely military intelligence to the Pentagon. It also advises the president, the joint chiefs and Congress.
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