Determining what’s a credible threat out of North Korea is something of a fool’s errand. Official ultimatums by Pyongyang routinely evaporate into nothing. But what happens when U.S. spies uncover threats never intended for mass consumption? CNN’s Jethro Mullen, Barbara Starr, and Joe Sterling appear to have picked up on such a red flag:
Communication intercepts in recent days also seem to show that Pyongyang could be planning to launch a mobile ballistic missile in the coming days or weeks, another official said.
The story notes that this communication intercept comes as the North moved a missile of "considerable range" to its east coast for a potential strike or test launch. There are conflicting reports about the capability of that missile: Japanese media reports suggested it was a KN-08, a long-range missile that if operable could reach the United States, but South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said the missile was not capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.
Either way, the uncovering of an actual threat as opposed to a telegraphed threat marks a new development in this month-long East Asian standoff.
But that doesn’t mean it’s time to batten down the hatches. For starters, North Korea doesn’t have a nuclear bomb small enough to mount on a long-range missile even though it’s working on such a weapon, reports the Associated Press. Other experts say Pyongyang doesn’t have enough bomb fuel to back up its nuclear threats. And despite the announcement that it’s restarting its nuclear plant, it could be years before North Korea actually churns out more weaponized fuel. So while the regime can still further inflame tensions — which it appears dead set on doing — the nuclear threat only holds so much plausibility.
North Korea targets U.S. bases; U.S. intel botching Asia?; Russia wants talks; Drone art; Prince Harry and more.Kevin Baron
Kevin Baron is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy, covering defense and military issues in Washington. He is also vice president of the Pentagon Press Association. Baron previously was a national security staff writer for National Journal, covering the "business of war." Prior to that, Baron worked in the resident daily Pentagon press corps as a reporter/photographer for Stars and Stripes. For three years with Stripes, Baron covered the building and traveled overseas extensively with the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, covering official visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East and Europe, China, Japan and South Korea, in more than a dozen countries. From 2004 to 2009, Baron was the Boston Globe Washington bureau's investigative projects reporter, covering defense, international affairs, lobbying and other issues. Before that, he muckraked at the Center for Public Integrity. Baron has reported on assignment from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and the South Pacific. He was won two Polk Awards, among other honors. He has a B.A. in international studies from the University of Richmond and M.A. in media and public affairs from George Washington University. Originally from Orlando, Fla., Baron has lived in the Washington area since 1998 and currently resides in Northern Virginia with his wife, three sons, and the family dog, The Edge.| Situation Report |