One of the most challenging steps to developing nuclear weapons is building a warhead capable of sitting atop a missile. North Korea—which already has boasted of multiple nuclear detonation tests—now is believed to have that elusive and dangerous capability. The New York Times cited a South Korean official as saying their communist neighbors to the north are thought to be able to mount a nuclear warhead on a medium range missile capable of hitting Japan.
Making this even more disturbing is that it comes mere weeks after reports that Iran is thought to be obtaining North Korean missile technology, as the two pariah states have long been friendly towards one another. The Korean official told The New York Times that North Korea was still multiple years away from being able to mount a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile capable of reaching the US, but that’s hardly a comforting timeline.
The report noted that it is unclear if the official’s dire assessment means North Korea has the warhead technology for medium-range missiles or simply has the ability to build it. The official did say there’s no evidence that North Korea has a warhead-mounted missile as of now, not to mention past doubts about North Korean abilities in South Korea and the US.
The Iranians recently made headlines with troubling missile tests, one of which had plans to wipe Israel off the earth written on the missile itself according to Iranian news media. And a report from The Daily Beast in February reported that one expert believes the Iranians are funding North Korean missile research, with a potential payoff in obtaining more advanced missile technology.
And a CNN report on Iranian missile technology compared the weapon to North Korean capabilities.
An American official on Monday delivered a stern message about North Korea in a public speech, saying in comments released by the State Department that “If denuclearization is the last thing on earth that North Korea’s leaders want to do, we need to make it the last thing on earth that they can do to secure their future.”
The official, Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the State Department Daniel Russel, cited sanctions as a key means to convince North Korea to back off their nuclear efforts. But he cited Iran as a nuclear success story—the same Iran that was testing long-range missiles just months after signing their nuclear pact with the US.
Said Russell about progress with North Korea on the nuclear issue, “That way forward isn’t hard to imagine. It starts with North Korea freezing all its nuclear activities, like Iran did while it negotiated… as we have shown with Cuba and Iran, the United States is prepared to engage nations with which we’ve had a troubled past.”
But if there’s more to the Iran-North Korea comparison than just enmity with the US, that troubled past could be a disturbing future.
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, April 5, 2016)