US: North Korea on “Inevitable”  Path to Nuclear ICBM

US: North Korea on “Inevitable” Path to Nuclear ICBM

North Korea-if left unchecked-is on an “inevitable” path to obtaining a nuclear-armed missile capable of striking the United States, a senior US defense official says.
The remarks by Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart at a Senate hearing on Wednesday are the latest indication of mounting US concern over Pyongyang’s advancing missile and nuclear weapons programs, which the North says are needed for self-defense, Reuters reported.
US lawmakers pressed Stewart and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to estimate how far away North Korea was from obtaining an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the United States.
They repeatedly declined to offer an estimate, but Stewart warned the panel the risk was growing.
“If left on its current trajectory, the regime will ultimately succeed in fielding a nuclear-armed missile capable of threatening the United States homeland,” Stewart said.
“While nearly impossible to predict when this capability will be operational, the North Korean regime is committed and is on a pathway where this capability is inevitable.”
John Schilling, a missile expert contributing to Washington’s 38 North think-tank, estimated it would take until at least 2020 for North Korea to be able to develop an ICBM capable of reaching the US mainland and until 2025 for one powered by solid fuel.
But Coats acknowledged gaps in US intelligence about North Korea and the thinking of its leader Kim Jong-un.
He cited technological factors complicating US intelligence gathering, including gaps in surveillance and reconnaissance, which rely on assets such as spy satellites and drone aircraft.
Last month, US President Donald Trump called the North Korean leader a “madman with nuclear weapons” during a telephone call with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, according to a transcript of an April 29 conversation released by US media on Tuesday.  
“We can’t let a madman with nuclear weapons let on the loose like that. We have a lot of firepower, more than he has, times 20. But we don’t want to use it,” Trump said, citing “two nuclear submarines” the Pentagon sent to the area.  

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