The Washington Post has changed the headline on their North Korea story today from “North Korean Nuclear Test A Growing Possibility” to “North Korean Missile Test a Growing Possibility.” At least they didn’t adopt the official North Korea government line and call it a civilian satellite test.
But the rest of the WaPo story remains unedited and the highlights underscore how real the threat of a nuclear and ballistic missile empowered North Korea is:
While North Korea has been making missiles to intimidate its neighbors for nearly half a century, what makes this launch particularly worrying is the increasing possibility — as assessed by U.S. intelligence and some independent experts — that it has built or is attempting to build nuclear warheads small enough to fit atop its growing number of missiles.
North Korea “may be able to successfully mate a nuclear warhead to a ballistic missile,” Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said this month in testimony prepared for the Senate Armed Services Committee.
David Albright, a physicist and nuclear weapons expert who runs the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, has written that North Korea is “likely able to build a crude nuclear warhead” for its midrange missiles that target Japan.
WaPo on the official North Korea position:
North Korea says it plans to put a communications satellite into orbit, but that claim is widely viewed as a pretext for testing an intercontinental ballistic missile, the Taepodong-2. The U.S. director of national intelligence, Dennis C. Blair, told a Senate committee that a three-stage missile of this type, if it works, could strike the continental United States.
Even long time missile defense critic Theodore Postol acknolwedges the threat is real:
North Korea’s test of a nuclear device in 2006 produced such a small explosion that it was probably only a partial success, according to Theodore Postol, a professor of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Postol estimates that it is possible for North Korea to make a warhead that is small and light enough to be mounted on a Nodong missile, which has a diameter of about four feet and can carry a payload of about 2,200 pounds. “It would be a very inefficient way to use a weapon,” he said. “But if you are desperate enough, I think such a weapon would certainly have deterrent capability. Tokyo is a large enough target to be relatively sure that a non-full-yield weapon would still cause tremendous death and destruction.”
Learn more at 33 Minutes.