Tags: North Korea | Trump Administration | north korea | intelligence | nuclear

NYT: US Intelligence Underestimated NKorea's Nuclear Power

NYT: US Intelligence Underestimated NKorea's Nuclear Power
H.R. McMaster (AP)

By    |   Saturday, 06 January 2018 07:17 PM

U.S. intelligence agencies failed to accurately predict when North Korea might develop a missile capable of hitting the United States with a nuclear warhead — and the Trump administration must now work "with a greater degree of urgency," National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told The New York Times Saturday.

Dictator Kim Jong Un's efforts to establish Pyongyang as a nuclear power before any negotiations begin or even far more crippling sanctions take effect "has been quicker, and the timeline is a lot more compressed than most people believed," McMaster said.

"We have to do everything we are doing with a greater degree of urgency, and we have to accelerate our own efforts to resolve the issue short of conflict."

That U.S. intelligence officials "saw it coming, but got the timing wrong," the Times reports, has placed President Donald Trump in the same situation as his predecessors: stopping North Korea's nuclear ambitions but having less time to do so.

In September, Kim detonated a sixth nuclear bomb. Intelligence officials say it was Pyongyang's first successful test of a hydrogen weapon.

It had an explosive force 15 times greater than the atom bomb that leveled Hiroshima in 1945, the Times reports.

Richard Garwin, a main designer of the world’s first hydrogen bomb, called NKorea's hydrogen claim quite plausible, noting the "enormous advances" in computer modeling and "the dedication of the small group of nuclear technologists in North Korea."

In November, Pyongyang tested the Hwasong-15, a greatly improved ICBM that could fly about 8,100 miles, far enough to threaten all of the United States.

One senior Trump official told the Times that the past year had been a "humbling lesson" in the limits of American surveillance against a closed-off North Korea whose leader has placed nuclear weapons proliferation on the same level as economic development.

However, President Trump is not troubled by the absence of a specific warning, McMaster told the Times.

"He doesn’t have the expectation of perfect intelligence about anything," the Army lieutenant general said. "He is very comfortable with ambiguity.

"He understands human nature and understands he will never have perfect intelligence about capabilities and intentions."

However, the imprecision could make efforts to neutralize Pyongyang's arsenal tougher — with estimates of Kim's nuclear weapons ranging from 20 to 30 — and fears that any pre-emptive strike might not take out all of the dictator's operations and could lead to a global conflict, the Times reports.

The Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon estimates that North Korea has more than 50 nuclear weapons.

Still, some observers are calling for diplomacy, including Siegfried Hecker, the former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

In 2010, North Korea invited him to visit, showing Hecker a uranium-enrichment plant it had built inside an old building at Yongbyon, the Times reports.

Pyongyang had built the facility, at a site under regular satellite surveillance, without being detected.

Hecker told the Times that North Korea needed "at least two more years and several more missile and nuclear tests" to perfect a weapon to threaten U.S. cities.

There is still time "to start a dialogue," he said, "in an effort to reduce current tensions and head off misunderstandings that could lead to war."

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U.S. intelligence agencies failed to accurately predict when North Korea might develop a missile capable of hitting the United States with a nuclear warhead - and the Trump administration must now work "with a greater degree of urgency," National Security Adviser H.R....
north korea, intelligence, nuclear
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2018-17-06
Saturday, 06 January 2018 07:17 PM
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