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A classified briefing given in November to congressional leaders by officials in the Obama administration revealed that North Korea is in the process of building its first road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, an ICBM capable of striking the continental United States.
North Korea’s primary strategic missile — the long-range Taepodong-2 intercontinental missile — is a fixed-site ICBM with a range of up to 9,300 miles. However, the road-mobile ICBMs, which are more difficult to locate on radar and thus easier to hide, can be set up and launched much more quickly than fixed-site missiles.
It is believed the new mobile ICBM is an adaptation of the North Korean Musudan mobile intermediate-range missile, already deployed by North Korea and reportedly capable of reaching American military bases in Okinawa and Guam.
Needless to say, the development of a North Korean nuclear-armed mobile ICBM, according to a military analyst with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, would pose “a spectacular challenge” to the United States.
Of course, it should be noted that the news of North Korea’s pursuit of a mobile ICBM has long been acknowledged by the Obama administration.
In January 2011, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the North Koreans’ pursuit in developing a road-mobile ballistic missile posed “a huge problem,” adding “As we’ve found out in a lot of places, finding mobile missiles is very tough.”
In fact, Gates had gone on to warn that North Korea’s potential road-mobile ICBM — coupled with its continued development of long-range missiles and continued development of nuclear weapons — makes it very likely that “North Korea could strike the U.S. with a nuclear warhead-tipped missile by 2015.”
Gates’ belief that North Korea is in the process of becoming “a direct threat to the United States,” was echoed in a recent statement issued by Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Ros-Lehtinen wrote, “As the North Korea threat grows, so do other threats. North Korea is a legendary proliferator and you can be certain that the regime will not keep its technological advances to itself, but share with the likes of Iran and Syria.”
Not surprisingly, despite being under UN sanctions for conducting nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, North Korea has continued to share nuclear technology with other nations, assistance which includes setting up nuclear production and testing facilities in both Syria and Iran.
In fact, shortly after the release of Ros-Lehtinen’s statement, new reports surfaced that North Korea recently sent a contingent of engineers to Iran’s nuclear and missile facilities. According to one Western diplomat, “Hundreds of North Korean scientists and engineers are working at about 10 nuclear and missile facilities in Iran.”
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