Armed Services chairman 'increasingly alarmed' at North Korea

Armed Services chairman 'increasingly alarmed' at North Korea
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The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Tuesday that he’s “increasingly alarmed” at North Korea’s weapons programs after receiving a classified briefing on the pace of Pyongyang’s missile development.

“The apparent success of the July 4 test is an alarming development as North Korea accelerates its pursuit of being able to hold the United States at risk with nuclear weapons,” Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said in a statement. “I have grown increasingly alarmed that North Korea is acting with a greater sense of urgency than we are.”

In what North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called a “gift” to United States to mark the Fourth of July, the country carried out its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

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The test appeared to indicate that Alaska is now within the country’s range, though Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Paul Selva has said North Korea still lacks the technology to accurately and reliably strike the United States.

North Korea is also still unable to shrink a nuclear warhead to mount on an ICBM.

But a confidential assessment from the Defense Intelligence Agency says North Korea may be able field a reliable, nuclear-capable ICBM as early as next year, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Tuesday’s classified briefing was held by the Armed Services Committee but open to all House members “to ensure they are aware of the rising threat to the American people,” according to a committee release.

Thornberry, who has long been a booster of missile defense, said in his statement that the United States has “significant ground” to cover as it works to bolster its defenses for the threat from North Korea.

“For some time, and especially during the last eight years, we have neglected the nation's missile defenses,” he said. “Now we face a growing threat with significant ground to make up. The House-passed National Defense Authorization Act makes considerable progress toward that goal, but we need everyone responsible in Congress and the Administration to take forceful, swift steps to see that the U.S. and our allies are protected.”

For missile defense, the House bill would authorize $2.5 billion above the president’s budget request to buy more interceptors for the Aegis, Patriot and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense systems, as well as for additional investments in the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system.

The bill would also require the Missile Defense Agency to craft plans for a space-based sensor layer and a space-based intercept layer for ballistic missile defense.