U.S. disputes report on North’s missile capability

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U.S. disputes report on North’s missile capability

Amid concerns of an imminent missile launch from Pyongyang, officials disputed a U.S. report that stated the North may have the ability to launch nuclear-armed missiles.

A report from the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) concluded “with moderate confidence” that North Korea developed a nuclear weapon that was miniaturized enough to be fitted onto a ballistic missile, a U.S. lawmaker revealed in a congressional session.

“DIA assesses with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles,” disclosed Representative Doug Lamborn, Republican of Colorado, from a classified section of the intelligence agency’s report from March 2013, “however, the reliability will be low.”

Lamborn revealed the excerpt of the “Dynamic Threat Assessment 8099: North Korea Nuclear Weapons Program” which was erroneously marked declassified during a budget hearing of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee in Washington.

The hearing was also attended by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who declined to comment on the assessment of North’s nuclear capabilities, which was classified material. Dempsey claimed he had not seen the report yet.

Hagel told the committee that the U.S. did not believe North Korea has the ability to hit the United States with a ballistic missile.

It was the first time the agency concluded that North Korea was capable of delivering a nuclear-armed missile, as many analysts have previously raised skepticism about North Korea’s capabilities to launch a nuclear missile.

But shortly after, both U.S. and Korean officials downplayed the DIA assessment.

James R. Clapper, director of national intelligence, released a statement shortly after saying “North Korea has not yet demonstrated the full range of capabilities necessary for a nuclear armed missile,” adding that the DIA assessment was not the consensus of the U.S. intelligence community.

Likewise, the Ministry of National Defense said yesterday that it does not believe North Korea has mastered miniaturized nuclear warheads.

By Sarah Kim [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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