McCain: North Korea nearing nuclear missile launch ‘capability’

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Sunday that it’s not clear if North Korea has a nuclear missile ready to launch, but it’s moving towards that “capability.”

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” McCain said the country’s military is dangerous and its leader, Kim Jong-un, is unpredictable. Asked about an intelligence report that said North Korea has missiles that can deliver a nuclear weapon, the Arizona Republican said it’s “a matter of time” before they can do so.

“Have no doubt that they are on the path to achieving that capability,” McCain said. “They are a danger. I think it’s a matter of time before they have that capability. Whether they do or not right now, it’s not clear.”

That intelligence report sent Washington buzzing as North Korea ramped up its rhetoric of threatening the United States and its neighbor, South Korea. Last week, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) read from an unclassified section of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report at a House Armed Services hearing.

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

McCain suggested North Korea’s recent threats of a nuclear strike were no more than the dictatorship’s usual bluster. But the senator said the country is a danger for U.S. allies in the region.

“I don’t think they are going to do anything more than their predecessors did but they have greater capability and they don’t think like us,” McCain said, noting “they do have the ability to set Seoul on fire.”

McCain said China could step up more with sanctions against the North Korean regime to change its behavior.

“What China needs to do is start squeezing their economy. Without China, their economy would collapse in a relatively short period of time,” McCain said.