Top general: US would have 'minutes' of warning time if North Korea launched missile

Top general: US would have 'minutes' of warning time if North Korea launched missile
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The U.S. would likely only have a warning time of a "dozen minutes or so" if North Korea launched a missile in its direction, the military's second highest-ranking official said Tuesday.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. Paul Selva said Pyongyang had cut the warning time down from an hour thanks to its use of mobile launch trucks, so much so that the U.S. would likely not be able to get an early warning "other than if we got lucky and saw the movement of the launch mechanism to the launch platform."

Yet Selva said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is still unable to strike the U.S. with an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) as far as the Pentagon has observed.

“What he has not demonstrated yet are the fusing and targeting technologies and survivable re-entry vehicle,” Selva said.

“It is possible he has them, so we have to place the bet that he might have them, but he hasn’t demonstrated them.”

North Korea launched more than a dozen ballistic missile tests in 2017, with one hydrogen bomb test in September. After the most recent test in November, the country said it had successfully tested a new type of ICBM that could reach the U.S. mainland. 

The missile flew higher than any previous test Pyongyang had conducted.

Defense Secretary James Mattis said in December that North Korea’s ICBM was not a “capable threat” to the U.S.  

Selva also touched on the Pentagon’s nuclear posture review, expected to be unveiled Feb. 2.

HuffPost first obtained a 64-page draft of the review earlier this month.

The review, which Selva said restates pre-existing language about the U.S. use of nuclear weapons, calls for the development of new, low-yield nuclear weapons to “enhance deterrence.”

Critics have argued that having low-yield weapons lowers the threshold for use of nuclear weapons.

But Selva said owning the bombs “does not in and of itself lower the threshold.”

Rather, he said, the U.S. is “raising the threshold of our potential adversaries, chief among them the Russians, who have thousands of low-yield nuclear weapons, and that is really key to the declaratory policy.”