Tag Archives: Red Alert Pentagon activates missile defenses for North Korean launch

Lawmaker drops bombshell: North Korea may have nuclear missiles

Lawmaker drops bombshell: North Korea may have nuclear missiles

By Anna Mulrine, Staff writer

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey testified on Capitol Hill in Washington Thursday before the House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Defense Department’s fiscal 2014 budget request. He was also asked about the situation in North Korea.

The results of a classified Defense Intelligence Agency report indicate that “North Korea now has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles.”

That was the bombshell out of a House Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday.

It came when Rep. Doug Lamborn (R) of Colorado began quoting from what he said was an unclassified version of the DIA report, which has not yet been made public.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, the nation’s top military officer, appeared caught off-guard. The Pentagon has in recent days sought to strike a balance between words of warning to the North and attempts to calm the situation. General Dempsey’s reaction suggested that he was not pleased to have the DIA assessment made public, as it could further stoke anxieties over what is already a enormously tense international standoff.

Representative Lamborn read from the report toward the end of a defense budget hearing.

“They say, ‘DIA assess with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles. However, the reliability will be low.’ General, would you agree with that assessment by DIA?” he asked


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“I can’t touch that one,” Dempsey answered.

The problem was that the report hasn’t been released, he said. “Some of it’s classified, some of it’s unclassified.”

Lamborn tried asking the question again, heedless of the sensitivity of the topic. “This is public; this is unclassified, so I can make it public.”

“And your question is do I agree with the DIA’s assessment?” Dempsey repeated.

“Yes,” Lamborn responded.

“Well,” Dempsey answered, “You said it’s not publicly released, so I choose not to comment on it.”

Only a day ago, Dempsey told reporters during a Pentagon briefing that “the proximity of the North Koreans to achieving a miniaturization of a nuclear device on a ballistic missile … is a classified matter.”

If North Korea does have nuclear-armed missiles, it could strike South Korea, Japan, or US forces in Japan. It could perhaps also hit Guam, but Hawaii and the mainland US are out of the North’s missile range, according to US intelligence estimates.

North Korea is expected to launch a missile soon as a show of defiance against the West. The administration said Thursday there is no indication that the missiles readied for launch are nuclear-armed, media reports said.

The exchange between Lamborn and Dempsey was not the only enlightening information about North Korea to emerge from Capitol HIll Thursday. At a different hearing, senior US intelligence officials were sharing some of the most telling details yet to emerge about the personality and motivations of the North’s new young leader, Kim Jong-un.

hey speculated on what, precisely, Mr. Kim’s reasons might be for what has largely been seen as a reckless ratcheting up of tensions in the region – behavior, officials divulged, that appears to be exasperating even Kim’s closest ally, China.

It seems, for starters, that Kim does not have a great deal of emotional intelligence, US officials indicated during testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.

“Unlike his father, I think he’s underestimating the Chinese frustration with him and their discomfiture with his behavior,” said James Clapper, the director of national intelligence.

“He impresses me as impetuous – not as inhibited as his father became about taking aggressive action,” he added. “The pattern with his father was to be provocative and then to sort of back off. We haven’t seen that yet with Kim.”

Kim spent his period of grieving for his father – “to the extent that he had [a grieving period],” Mr. Clapper observed – with officials from North Korea’s military and security services.

“So, clearly they have influenced him” in some of his aggressive posturing of late.

But though his father has passed away, family does continue to influence him, often for the better. “I do think that his uncle and his aunt do have some tempering influence on him,” Clapper said.

So, too, does the time he spent in the West, attending school in Switzerland.

“I found it very interesting that the minister of economics that he just appointed was someone who was purged in 2007 for apparently being too capitalist-minded,” he added. “So clearly he does recognize, since he’s spent time in the West … that economically North Korea is in an extremis situation. So it will be interesting to see how this plays out – if the new economics minister avoids another purge.”

As far as Kim’s intentions regarding his bellicose actions? “I think his primary objective is to consolidate, affirm his power. And much of the rhetoric – in fact, all of the belligerent rhetoric of late, I think – is designed for both an internal and an external audience,” Clapper added. “But I think first and foremost it’s to show that he is firmly in control in North Korea.”

So, does Kim have an endgame in mind, one lawmaker wanted to know.

“I don’t think, really, he has much of an endgame other than to somehow elicit recognition from the world – and specifically, most importantly, the United States – of North Korea as a rival on an international scene, as a nuclear power, and that entitles him to negotiation and to accommodation and, presumably, for aid,” Clapper said.

The bottom line is that “Kim Jong-un has not been in power all that long, so we don’t have an extended track record for him like we did with his father and grandfather,” said John Brennan, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, who also testified before the committee.

“And that’s why we are watching this very closely to see whether or not what he is doing is consistent with past patterns of North Korean behavior.”

What does seem clear, officials told lawmakers, is that Kim does not appear to have the restraint his father had.

“Clearly, he’s off-pattern with his father,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R) of Michigan, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, observed. “Even folks who specialize in the region say this: ‘If you’re ever going to be concerned, this is the time to be concerned.’ I’m just curious as to your assessment.”

“Well,” Clapper responded, “I agree with you.”SOURCE

Red Alert Pentagon activates missile defenses for North Korean launch

Red Alert
Pentagon activates missile defenses for North Korean launch

BY: Bill Gertz –

The Pentagon recently activated its global missile shield in anticipation of North Korea’s launch of a long-range missile, according to defense officials.

The measures include stepped-up electronic monitoring, deployment of missile interceptor ships, and activation of radar networks to areas near the Korean peninsula and western Pacific.

Three interceptor ships near Japan and the Philippines, as well as U.S.-based interceptors, are ready to shoot down the North Korean missile if space-, land-, and sea-based sensors determine its flight path is targeted at the United States or U.S. allies, said officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Obama administration will regard any launch by North Korea as a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions regardless of whether the North Koreans claim the rocket test is for space launch purposes, the officials said. The technology and rocketry used for a space launch is nearly identical to that used with ballistic missiles that carry a warhead, they said.

Also, because the payload or warhead of the test launch cannot be determined prior to launch, the Obama administration decided to activate the missile defense system.

According to U.S. officials, current intelligence assessments indicate the North Korean missile will be launched from a base called Tongchang-ri, located on a west coast peninsula north of Pyongyang between April 12 and April 15.

Satellite Photo of Tongchang-ri from March 28, 2012 / AP Images

The missile’s first stage could impact in the Yellow Sea near South Korea and the second stage could land east of the Philippines in the Pacific.

Satellite images published Monday show preparations for the launch are continuing.

Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. April Cunningham would not say if missile defenses were activated for the upcoming test.

However, Cunningham said, “North Korea’s announcement that it plans to conduct a long-range missile launch at any time would be in direct violation of its international obligations.”

U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874 “clearly and unequivocally prohibit North Korea from conducting launches that use ballistic missile technology,” she said.

“Such a missile launch would pose a threat to regional security and would also be inconsistent with North Korea’s recent undertaking to refrain from long-range missile launches,” Cunningham said.

“The U.S. closely monitors threats to international security and has the capability to respond if and when appropriate.”

A U.S. official said the military’s large, X-band radar that is based on a oil-rig-sized floating platform sailed from Honolulu to waters near Korea on March 26 as part of the activation.

Current U.S. missile defense systems include networks of radar and space tracking gear, including ground- and sea-based radar, Aegis ships, and long-range interceptor missiles based in Alaska and California. A total of 30 three-stage interceptors are deployed.

Any decision to shoot down the missile would be made by the president, officials said.

The missile defense activation was briefly mentioned by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Saturday during a meeting with reporters aboard the Navy ship USS Peleliu. Asked what military steps were taken to deal with a future North Korean launch, Panetta said the U.S. has “put whatever assets in place that we need in order to deal with any contingency.”

“We expressed our concern,” Panetta said of the upcoming launch. “The president of the United States made very clear that the North Koreans should not do this. It is provocative. It’s dangerous and it violates the international law. And so our hope is that they will not do it. But as always takes place in these kinds of situations, we have to be fully prepared for any possibility—and we are.”

Details of the missile defense deployments are classified. However, defense officials said the measures include the stationing of three Navy Aegis-equipped warships around Japan that are equipped with SM-3 missile interceptors.

The U.S. missile defense deployments are being closely coordinated with Japan’s government and military, which has deployed two Aegis ships armed with SM-3s, along with Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile batteries around Tokyo.

Japan’s concern is that if the missile goes astray or breaks up, it will target Japanese territory, and the shorter-range defenses will be used to try and shoot down the debris before impact.

North Korea has announced that it is planning a space launch of a satellite. But U.S. officials said the missile being readied on a launch pad north of the capital of Pyongyang appears similar to North Korea’s Taepodong-2 intercontinental ballistic missile.

U.S. officials also said that regardless of the configuration, the launch is likely cover for a missile test since U.N. sanctions prohibit North Korea from launching missiles.

According to the officials, the initial phases of the U.S. missile defense activation include stepped-up intelligence gathering by spy satellites and RC-135 Cobra Ball aircraft based at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan.

Asked for details, a U.S. official would say only that “We’ve got what we need to monitor a possible launch.”

Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde, a second Pentagon spokeswoman, declined to provide details on the North Korean launch preparation but said, “We’re monitoring the situation very closely, along with our [Republic of Korea] counterparts, to ensure the defense of the ROK.”

“Through our combined capabilities, we can sufficiently monitor North Korea’s efforts,” she said.

Hull-Ryde declined to discuss military operations, plans or intelligence but said, “We stand ready to defend U.S. territory, our allies and our national interests.”

The last time missile defenses were activated on the current scale was 2009, when North Korea conducted a test flight of a Taepodong-2 on April 5.

Prior to that launch, also announced by Pyongyang as a space launch, the Navy deployed two Aegis ships in the Sea of Japan and one Aegis east of Japan, according to a State Department cable made public by Wikileaks.

Also, in 2009, the military shared ballistic missile data with Japan from the Shared Early Warning system and the AN/TPY-2 X-band radar located at Shariki, Aomori, Japan.

The Seventh Fleet and the Japan Maritime Self Defense Forces carried out aegis ship data sharing.

As the missile was being fueled, U.S. Forces Japan activated a 24/7 Crisis Action Team with the Japanese military.

U.S. secrecy regarding its missile defense deployments contrasts with Japan’s openness on the issue. Japanese Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka on March 23 ordered missile defenses prepared for the North Korean launch. The preparations included Aegis warships and ground-based PAC-3 defenses.

The North Korean missile’s likely flight path could take it over Okinawa.

SOURCE