North Korea's nukes unlikely to hit U.S.
WASHINGTON — North Korea is widely recognized as being years away from perfecting the technology to back up its bold threats of a pre-emptive strike on the United States.
Some nuclear experts, though, say North Korea might have the know-how to fire a nuclear-tipped missile at South Korea and Japan, which host U.S. military bases.
No one can tell with any certainty how much technological progress North Korea has made, aside from perhaps a few people close to its secretive leadership.
If technological progress is true, North Korea still unlikely would instigate an attack because the retaliation would be devastating.
The North's third nuclear test on Feb. 12, which prompted the toughest U.N. Security Council penalties yet, is presumed to have advanced its ability to miniaturize a nuclear device.
Experts say that designing a nuclear warhead that works on a shorter-range missile is much easier than one for an intercontinental missile that could target the United States.
The assessment of David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security think tank is that North Korea has the capability to mount a warhead on its Nodong missile, which has a range of 800 miles and could hit in South Korea and most of Japan.
Siegfried Hecker at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation, who has visited North Korea seven times and been granted unusual access to its nuclear facilities, is skeptical the North has advanced that far in miniaturization of a nuclear device.
The differing opinions underscore a fundamental problem in assessing a country as isolated as North Korea .
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments â either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.