The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff yesterday said North Korea was on track to develop nuclear-ready ICBMs within the next 10 years, the Yonhap News Agency reported (see GSN, Jan. 14).
"There's little doubt in my mind, unless North Korea is deterred, that sometime in the next, I'm not sure but, five to 10 years, the provocations ... will continue at a much higher threat level, which could include a nuclear-capable ICBM," Adm. Michael Mullen told the Financial Times.
"That's what I believe we're looking at," the admiral said in interview remarks released by the U.S. Defense Department. "I can't be precise about the time and say it's exactly here but clearly there is evolution going on there where the threat becomes much more serious."
Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the North was within five years of developing ballistic missiles capable of striking the continental United States.
Washington's concerns about the Stalinist state's growing missile and nuclear capabilities led President Obama to recently warn Chinese President Hu Jintao that if Beijing did not move to restrain its neighboring ally, the United States would redeploy military forces in East Asia to protect its national security (see GSN, Jan. 21).
"I think we all agree [North Korea's] a more dangerous place now than it was a few months ago and that the provocations ... the worry tied to this [November] revelation on the nuke, the uranium enrichment piece, all of that, that it's now more dangerous than it was a few months ago," Mullen said (Hwang Doo-hyong, Yonhap News Agency, Jan. 27).