General: North Korean missiles 'clearly' have range to reach US

General: North Korean missiles 'clearly' have range to reach US
© KCNA via Getty Images

The second-highest ranking military officer in the country said North Korea’s July 4 missile test “clearly” shows the country has the range to hit part of the United States, though he added Pyongyang still lacks the technology to accurately and reliably aim its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM).

“I do agree in principal with the assessment that the North Koreans are moving quickly to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capability,” Gen. Paul Selva told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

“I, however, am not saying that the test on the Fourth of July demonstrates that they have the capacity to strike the United States with any degree of accuracy or reasonable confidence of success. What the experts tell me is that North Koreans have yet to demonstrate the capacity to do the guidance and control that would be required.”

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Pressed by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) on the issue of range, Selva added: “Yes, sir, on range, they clearly have the capability.”

Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was testifying at his confirmation hearing to be reappointed to the role for another two-year term.

On July 4, North Korea for the first time successfully tested an ICBM.

Outside experts said the range of the missile appeared to put Alaska within reach, though they cautioned North Korea was still a ways off of being able to reliably strike the U.S. mainland, as well as shrinking a nuclear warhead to mount on a missile.

In response to Selva’s statement that North Korea doesn’t yet have guidance and control technology for the ICBM, Inhofe said they are “not too far behind.”

Selva agreed.

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“Yes, sir, we’ll have to watch very carefully with the [intelligence community] the developments on those particular capabilities,” Selva said.

Selva also said he is “reasonably confident” in the intelligence community’s ability to keep track of North Korea’s testing, but not deployment. 

“I’m reasonably confident in the ability of our intelligence community to monitor the testing, but not the deployment of these missile systems,” he said.

“Kim Jong Un and his forces are very good at camouflage and concealment and deception. We have a series of programs that I’d be happy to talk about in a classified setting that talk to the ability of our intelligence community, both military and civilian, to monitor those activities.”