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Nuclear North Korea
Top U.S. General in South Korea Contradicts Obama: North May Have Nuke Warheads

General Curtis M. Scaparrotti, the top U.S. military commander in South Korea, believes that North Korea may have nukes small enough to fit on the tip of a warhead. If North Korea does, or even could, marry its proven nuclear and missile programs, it would be an enormous change that would upend U.S. strategy in the region. The New York Times :

General Scaparrotti’s assessment seemed to suggest that the North had made progress since last year, when President Obama appeared to contradict a Defense Intelligence Agency finding about the country’s ability to put a warhead on a missile.

At that time, the agency issued a report that it had “moderate confidence”that the North had mastered the technology of building a weapon that could fit into a missile warhead. That forced James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, to issue a statement that the agency’s position was not the consensus view of 15 other intelligence agencies. Mr. Obama agreed, saying, “You know, based on our current intelligence assessment, we do not think that they have that capacity.”

On Friday, General Scaparrotti sided with the Defense Intelligence Agency. “I believe they have the capability to have miniaturized the device at this point, and they have the technology to potentially actually deliver what they say they have,” he told reporters.

As the Times points out, it is not clear whether Gen. Scaparrotti’s disagreement with Obama is based on new intelligence that has come to light in the past year, or whether he has assessed the old information, from his closer vantage point, in a different way.

In either case, the interested observer ought to revise up the known likelihood of the existence of Ballistic DPRK missiles. This is not good news; North Korea is fickle, desperate, and isolated. Even if it doesn’t plan to use its nukes, it very well might sell them to somebody who would. This is just one more sign that the world is not going to stand still while the U.S. takes a sabbatical.

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  • Thirdsyphon

    To call North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs “proven” is to stretch that term past the breaking point. Pyongyang’s “nuclear detonations” and “missile launches” don’t tend to go as planned. If forced to choose, I’d rather be standing at ground zero of the intended target of such a missile than anywhere close to its launch pad.

    • CailinM

      Be careful what you wish for 🙂

      I’m inclined to think we’re pounded with a lot of conflicting information which, in the end, doesn’t make a whole lot of difference. Gets a bunch of chatter going, tho.

      If BHO feels undermined, he can always fire the general, right?

  • Jmaci

    Given Obama’s habit of under-playing bad news–al Qaida on the run, ISIS as a jv team, Ebola can’t happen here–the smart money should be on the general.

  • Kevin

    It would be dereliction of duty for a US commander in Korea not to be prepared for the North Koreans having a useable nuclear weapon.

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