N. Korea likely has capability to launch missile able to hit mainland U.S.: Japan

Tuesday, August 2, 2016
By Paul Martin


TOKYO/SEOUL, Aug. 2 (Yonhap) — North Korea appears to already be in possession of the capability to launch a missile able to hit the mainland United States, Japan’s annual defense review said Tuesday.

The assessment on North Korea’s missile capabilities, carried in the Japanese defense white paper, came as North Korea is seen as making progress in its quest to miniaturize warheads that can be placed on ballistic missiles with intercontinental range.

Pyongyang conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and launched a long-range rocket the next month in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions that ban the North from nuclear or ballistic missile tests.

The North said the launch was only to put an Earth observation satellite into orbit, but the U.N. council condemned it as a cover for testing intercontinental ballistic missile technology.

The 2016 white paper assessed that the vehicle launched in February seems to be the same Taepodong 2-derived three-stage ballistic missile that the North test-fired in December 2012.

“Had the Taepodong 2-derived ballistic missile been used for its original purpose, its range would have possibly reached more than 10,000 kilometers on the premise that the weight of its warhead was less than 1 ton,” the defense white paper said.

A 10,000 km range from North Korea could allow the missile to drop a warhead on key U.S. West Coast cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles and mid-western cities such as Denver.

The white paper also added that one possibility is that the North may have already achieved nuclear miniaturization. It has conducted four nuclear tests so far, and the technology is not new since the U.S. and China, as well as other nuclear weapon-possessing nations, have been able to make small warheads since the 1960s.

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