A top U.S. general told American lawmakers this week that North Korea’s missile program was progressing at an unprecedented pace, and the window that allows the U.S. military to detect, react, and mitigate potential nuclear weapons threats was growing increasingly smaller.
At present, the United States has the capability of detecting and thwarting any ballistic missile threat that North Korea might mount, according to General Lori Robinson, head of the NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command), the military missile detection and defense organization that protects Canada and the U.S. The Agence France-Presse reported last week that Robinson told Congress she was “extremely confident” of the U.S. military’s capability to intercept an ICBM (InterContinental Ballistic Missile) headed for America in the event that North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-Un, should succeed in developing such technology.
“Right now… he [Kim Jong-Un] can’t reach our homeland, but I am confident, should he do that,” she assured the senators.
Robinson’s written testimony comes a day after Pyongyang fired off yet another ballistic missile, with this one splashing harmlessly into the Sea of Japan after flying roughly 60 kilometers (over 37 miles) before reportedly suffering an in-flight malfunction, according to White House officials (per Reuters). A string of missile launches that also landed in the Sea of Japan in March has prompted a group of influential Japanese politicians to push for an alteration of the island nation’s constitution so that it can deal with the North Korean threat preemptively. Japan’s current constitution only allows for the nation to assume a defensive, retaliatory role with regard to aggressive military actions.
The missile, a liquid-fueled Scud, was a KN-15 medium-range ballistic missile. Liquid-fueled missiles are less sophisticated than the solid-fuel missiles used by many of the world’s military powers, being more difficult to prepare to launch and harder to transport.
However, according to Gen. Robinson, North Korea seems to be on the verge of producing their own solid-fuel ICBMs.
Back in February, Pyongyang announced that it had successfully tested a solid-fuel ballistic missile. The production of such missiles are problematic for the U.S. and South Korea in that they are more difficult to detect, Robinson asserted.
“Amidst an unprecedented pace of North Korean strategic weapons testing, our ability to provide actionable warning continues to diminish.”
Kim Jong-Un and the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) have test-fired a half dozen ballistic missiles since February, all while its state-run media excoriated the United States and its allies in the region (most notably, South Korea), sometimes going as far as threatening to use nuclear weapons.
According to two ex-CIA members, R. James Woolsey and Vincent Pry, the threat of a nuclear weapons attack from North Korea is all too real and contrary to Gen. Robinson’s testimony, there have been credible reports that the DPRK not only has had the military capacity to hit the U.S. with a missile for the last few years, they have also had the capability of arming said missiles with nuclear warheads. However, the two men argued that Kim Jong-Un and company would merely have to strategically place one nuclear device to produce an EMP (ElectroMagnetic Pulse) that could potentially disable communications and the nation’s electrical grid system; an event that could potentially result in the deaths of 90 percent of all Americans.
Robinson concluded her testimony with an appeal to continued funding for the latest technology in sensors and detection devices in order to keep pace with the ever-growing threat from potential adversaries.
“As adversaries continue to pursue credible and advanced capabilities, we too must evolve our missile defense capabilities to outpace increasingly complex threats,” she said.
President Trump has asked for a $54 billion increase in military spending for the next fiscal budget. It is as yet unclear as to how much of that increase would be spent on defensive systems like those employed by NORAD.
Amid the growing tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, the president to the Financial Times that if China, the DPRK’s only major ally, would not cooperate in containing the rogue nation’s nuclear threat, the U.S. would be forced to make unilateral decisions.
[Featured Image by Lee Jin-man/AP Images]