The nuclear advances were detailed in an official Japanese assessment and a Washington Post story
President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing on the opioid crisis, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. photo: AP/Evan Vucci, photo: AP/Evan Vucci
08 of August 2017 19:27:35
BRIDGEWATER – President Donald Trump threatened North Korea "with fire and fury like the world has never seen" on Tuesday after suggestions the communist country has mastered one of the final hurdles to being able to strike the United States with a nuclear missile.North Korea fired off its own "serious warning to the United States" about "enveloping" America's Pacific territory of Guam in missile fire to counteract U.S. bombers that are based there and fly over South Korea — and "get on the nerves" of the North.
The Trump administration considers North Korea to be the U.S.'s greatest national security threat and tensions have steadily escalated this year.Pyongyang had threatened the U.S. in response to the U.N. Security Council's adoption this weekend of new, tougher sanctions spearheaded by Washington. The sanctions followed groundbreaking long-range missile tests last month that showed the North could potentially reach the continental United States with its missiles. The newly revealed U.S. intelligence assessment indicates those missiles can carry nuclear warheads.Denouncing the U.N. sanctions through state media, the North warned: "We will make the U.S. pay by a thousand-fold for all the heinous crimes it commits against the state and people of this country."For North Korea, having a nuclear-tipped missile that could strike America would be the ultimate guarantee against invasion by its superpower adversary.It is an ambition decades in the making. North Korea began producing fissile material for bombs in the early 1990s and conducted its first nuclear test explosion in 2006. Four subsequent nuclear tests, the latest a year ago, have accelerated progress on miniaturizing a device — something North Korea already claimed it could do. Over that span, multiple U.S. presidents have tried and failed to coax or pressure Pyongyang into abandoning its nuclear ambitions.The secrecy of the North's nuclear program and the underground nature of its test explosions make it very difficult to properly assess its claims. But the new assessments from Japan and the U.S. suggest that doubts over the North's abilities are receding.In an annual report, Japan's Defense Ministry on Tuesday concluded that "it is possible that North Korea has achieved the miniaturization of nuclear weapons and has developed nuclear warheads." Japan, a key U.S. ally, is a potential, front-line target of North Korean aggression.The Post story, citing unnamed U.S. intelligence officials, went further. It said the Defense Intelligence Agency analysis, completed last month, assessed North Korea has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, including by intercontinental missiles.Officials at the agency wouldn't comment Tuesday. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence also wouldn't discuss the report.It's unclear how North Korea's new capabilities will immediately affect how the U.S. approaches the country's regular missile launches and occasional nuclear tests. The U.S. military has never attempted to shoot a North Korean missile out of the sky, deeming all previous tests to pose no threat to the United States. The U.S. could weigh military action if the threat perception changes.
President Trump: If North Korea makes any more threats to the U.S., "they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen" pic.twitter.com/8dQed79L1W— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 8, 2017
MATTHEW PENNINGTONCATHERINE LUCEY