July 27, 2017 09:18
The Pentagon believes North Korea can field a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile that could strike the U.S. mainland within a year, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency said there have been "surprising technical advances" in the North's recent missile tests. The assessment "shaves a full two years off the consensus forecast for North Korea's ICBM program," the daily wrote.
The North on July 4 tested a Hwasong-14 ballistic missile can fly 7,000 to 8,000 km.
The DIA believes the North Korean regime can produce a "reliable, nuclear-capable ICBM program" sometime in 2018, the paper said. That means that "by next year the program will have advanced from prototype to assembly line."
But the South Korean government and military disagree. They believe the North has not yet perfected atmospheric re-entry technology, a core point in ICBM development, and will still need two to three more years.
The National Intelligence Service told the National Assembly Intelligence Committee on July 11 that the North has not yet obtained the re-entry technology for nuclear warheads.
Mac Thornberry, the chairman of the House Committee on Armed Services, said on Tuesday that the U.S. has been negligent in missile defense over the past eight years and called for "powerful and prompt" measures to protect the U.S. and its allies.
Meanwhile, Washington is expected to conduct another THAAD interceptor missile test in Alaska on Saturday, the second since July 11.
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