Former CIA Director Mike Morell is not convinced that the conventional wisdom about North Korea is correct — that the country cannot yet threaten the United States with a nuclear-tipped ICBM, and he’s not alone. Other former ranking members of the U.S. intelligence community believe so, too, and they reached those conclusions years ago.
It is conventional wisdom that North Korea is not yet able to put a U.S. city at risk of nuclear attack. Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the country’s No. 2 military officer, captured this view in a statement last week to Bloomberg News. Selva said: “It is clear North Korea has the capability to build a missile that can range the distance to the United States, but North Korea has yet to demonstrate it has the requisite technology and capability to actually target and strike the United States with a nuclear weapon.” Many other U.S. officials, as well as outside experts, have made similar comments.
I think the conventional wisdom may be wrong. I believe that North Korea may have the capability today to successfully conduct a nuclear attack on the United States. I believe that the conventional wisdom may be based on a fundamental mistake of logic: Just because North Korea has not yet demonstrated a capability does not mean it does not have it.
Source: Washington Post
Why it’s on our radar: Morell gave three compelling reasons for why he thinks the conventional wisdom is wrong. First, he says, the North has already demonstrated the capability to put satellites into orbit on a rocket that, if the trajectory was changed, had the range to strike Alaska and perhaps even the continental U.S. Second, Pyongyang has repeatedly demonstrated it can build and detonate successively stronger nuclear devices. Third, “I believe that North Korea has the technical capability and has had the time necessary to make a nuclear weapon small enough to fit on a long-range missile and to ensure that the warhead can survive the vibrations, pressures and heat of reentry. If you can build a nuclear weapon, you can make the rest of the pieces work.”
Morell isn’t alone in his thinking. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told journalist Charlie Rose at a Council on Foreign Relations event about a year ago that the U.S. ascribes to North Korea “the capability to launch a missile that has a weapon on it that could reach parts of the United States, certainly including Alaska and Hawaii.” When asked a follow-up question, Clapper responded, “We’ve assessed . . . for years that they could do it.” A year earlier — at an Atlantic Council event in October 2015 — Adm. William Gortney, then-commander of U.S. Northern Command, said the same thing — the intel community has long assessed that North Korea has the capability to successfully launch a nuclear missile at America.
Given these conclusions of former ranking military and intelligence officials, we have to believe that any preemptive strike against North Korea would take this capability into account, and actually could help explain why the U.S. hasn’t launched one already.