Kerry arrives in South Korea amid report that North can affix nuke to missile

20130415-103722.jpgTHANKS;Washington Free Beacon Staff,April 12, 2013 10:40 am
Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in the South Korean capital of Seoul Friday amid disclosures that North Korea may have the capability of attaching a nuclear bomb to a ballistic missile.

Congressman Doug Lamborn (R., Co.) made the disclosure, based on an assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency, during a House Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday at which Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey testified.

Dempsey declined comment on the report during the hearing.
The assessment cautions that the “reliability” of a North Korean nuclear ballistic missile “will be low” because of previous technical difficulties the North Koreans have had with missile technology.

By Thursday evening, however, the U.S. and South Korean security establishments were downplaying the DIA report.
“It would be inaccurate to suggest that the North Korean regime has fully tested, developed, or demonstrated the kinds of nuclear capabilities referenced in the passage,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement. “The United States continues to closely monitor the North Korean nuclear program and calls upon North Korea to honor its international obligations.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, in a separate statement released Thursday, said he concurred with the Pentagon.
“I would add that the statement read by the Member is not an Intelligence Community assessment,” Clapper said in the statement. “Moreover, North Korea has not yet demonstrated the full range of capabilities necessary for a nuclear armed missile.”

The speedy response by the executive branch to Congressman Lamborn’s disclosure occurs at a moment of high tensions on the Korean peninsula.

The U.S. government has sought to downplay the threat posed by North Korea in recent days despite continued belligerence on the part of the Kim dictatorship.

Max Boot, a military historian at the Council for Foreign Relations, said Lamborn was overstating the threat from North Korea.“Kim Jong-un would like us to believe his WMD program is more advanced than it actually is–a task that Lamborn is unwittingly helping the North Korean dictator to achieve,” Boot wrote on the blog of Commentary magazine.

The North Koreans removed workers from the Kaesong industrial complex, operated jointly with South Korea, earlier this week, removing one of their few remaining ties to the outside world. They also moved missiles to the coast in what analysts say is a precursor to a test launch.

A U.S. defense official told the Washington Free Beacon‘s Bill Gertz this week that Washington may be increasing the chances of military conflict by demonstrating military strength one week and downplaying threats the next.

“The defense official said the Minuteman 3 flight test from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., was meant to further signal U.S. strategic resolve in the face of unprecedented threats by North Korea to attack the United States with nuclear missiles,” Gertz reported in his “Inside the Ring” column.

However, the planned Minuteman 3 test was cancelled by Hagel even as the United States accelerated operation of a missile defense system in Guam.

A CNN poll released this week found that 51 percent of Americans disagree with the notion that the situation on the Korean peninsula can be resolved solely through economic or diplomatic means. That is the first time CNN has recorded such a result.

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