NORAD Discusses North Korea’s Missile Technology
April 8, 2015
Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command Adm. William Gortney’s press briefing at the Pentagon on April 7 addressed concerns on North Korea’s nuclear and missile program.
- If the NORAD commander's statements are intended to confirm to the press North Korea’s road-mobile KN-08 capability, the main strategic implication is that North Korea's nuclear force are potentially more survivable.
- It would be difficult for the U.S. to counter the KN-08 threat because, as Adm. Gortney acknowledged, the U.S. does not currently have the persistent ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) over North Korea to deal with a mobile, re-locatable target.
- Therefore, should North Korea have a flight-tested KN-08 its nuclear forces would be less deterrable from a strategic stability perspective.
- The KN-08 is presumed to be an ICBM, a mock-up of which was first publicly paraded in April 2012. Speculations indicate that the KN-08 is a three-stage liquid-fuel missile system that can possibly carry a miniaturized nuclear warhead with a range capable of reaching the U.S. west coast.
- Gortney gave the assessment the North Korea has the ability to miniaturize a nuclear warhead for a KN-08 ICBM but emphasized they have not yet tested such technology.
- April marks some important anniversaries in North Korea's calendar including Kim Il Sung's birthday (April 15) and the founding of the Korean People's Army (April 25). On April 1st North Korea implemented a no-fly, no-sail zone over the East Sea leading to speculation that a possible provocation or missile test may be in the works.
- In April 2012 North Korea unsuccessfully launched a Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 satellite with a flight trajectory over the East Sea. It was followed by a successful launch in December 2012.
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