Pentagon, US intelligence back off North Korea nuclear claims

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Pentagon press secretary George Little issued statements late Thursday saying claims that North Korea is close to adding an intercontinental ballistic missile to its arsenal were "inaccurate." 


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"While I cannot speak to all the details of a report that is classified ... it would be inaccurate to suggest that the North Korean regime has fully tested, developed, or demonstrated [those] kinds of nuclear capabilities," according to Little. 

That said, any Pentagon analysis indicating a mobile, nuclear-armed missile in North Korea is anywhere near completion does not match up with information gained by U.S. intelligence, Clapper added. 

The Pentagon report on North Korean weaponry, compiled by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), "is not an intelligence community assessment," Clapper said. 

"North Korea has not yet demonstrated the full range of capabilities necessary for a nuclear armed missile," he added. 

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) disclosed unclassified portions of the classified DIA report during a Thursday hearing of the House Armed Services Committee. 

“DIA assesses with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles, however the reliability will be low,” Lamborn said, quoting the Pentagon intelligence assessment. 

During a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee that same day, Clapper did note Pyongyang is taking "initial steps" toward fielding a ballistic missile, "although it remains untested." 

North Korean forces unveiled a new "road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile" last spring, and has routinely put the weapon on display as a public show of force since then, DIA chief Lt. Gen Michael Flynn told the House intel panel. 

Pyongyang has already sent out the mobile missile launchers designed to fire the new ballistic missile, "but not the missiles themselves," Flynn added.  

The country is still preparing to launch several long-range, non-nuclear missiles positioned on the eastern coast of the peninsula, which could happen as soon as this week. 

North Korean military units began moving the non-nuclear missiles into position last week, in a show of force directed at Washington and its allies in the Western Pacific region.