September 04, 2019 09:40
U.S. intelligence authorities and independent experts believe that North Korea's new missiles "could overwhelm American defenses in the region," the New York Times reported on Monday.
Their assessment flies in the face of U.S. President Donald Trump's dismissal of recent North Korean missile tests as "very standard" and no threat to the U.S.
The North has tested three new varieties of missiles on nine occasions since May -- a version of the Iskander missile, an army tactical missile system (ATACMS) surface-to-surface missile, and a super-large multiple rocket launcher.
Using solid-fuel propellants and launch vehicles, all are easy to fire quickly and hide from surveillance. They are also capable of flying at a low altitude and following an unpredictable trajectory to defeat U.S. missile defense system, including Patriot and other antimissile batteries.
The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies said the missiles, which have a range of up to 690 km, could threaten eight U.S. bases housing more than 30,000 troops, six in South Korea and two in Japan carrying "either conventional or nuclear warheads," the daily added.
It quoted an estimate by the Defense Intelligence Agency that the North has also produced enough fuel for roughly a dozen new nuclear weapons since the North Korea-U.S. summit in Singapore last year.
South Korean and Japanese officials told the daily that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in recent private meetings, hinted that "he is fearful the administration is being strung along" by North Korea.
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