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‘N. Korean missiles lack capacity to hit U.S. with accuracy,' says U.S. official

‘N. Korean missiles lack capacity to hit U.S. with accuracy,' says U.S. official

Posted July. 20, 2017 07:18,   

Updated July. 20, 2017 07:37


The U.S. Department of Defense said on Tuesday that North Korea’s July 4 missile test shows that Pyongyang still lacks accuracy in guiding the Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) to precisely hit a target after re-entry into the atmosphere.

Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee that North Koreans “clearly have the capability” for launching its ballistic missiles to the mainland U.S. but noted, “What the experts tell me is that the North Koreans have yet to demonstrate the capacity to do the guidance and control that would be required.”

The remarks are in the same vein as South Korean National Intelligence Service Director Suh Hoon’s report to the National Assembly last week that North Korea did not appear to have obtained the terminal-phase guidance technology. Without it, it is impossible to accurately strike a target even if the North claimed it had the reentry technology.

However, missile experts say that the North will be able to develop the technology within this year at the earliest or within two to three years at the latest in consideration of Pyongyang’s development speed. Selva also admitted so when Senator John Inhofe said the North did not fall far behind in missile guidance and control technology.

Some experts also say that even without the guidance technology, a sufficient range can pose a significant military threat. Michael Elleman, a U.S. weapons expert, noted that, it would be harder to intercept an ICBM with a range of over 9,000 kilometers if the North does not have the guidance technology. He stressed that whether the North has the reentry technology is a more important factor.

Meanwhile, Selva also said, “I'm reasonably confident in the ability of our intelligence community to monitor the testing, but not the deployment of these missile systems." He added, “(North Korean leader) Kim Jong-un and his forces are very good at camouflage, concealment and deception.”

Jeong-Hun Park sunshade@donga.com