A few weeks ago, we highlighted an interview given by CIA Director Mike Pompeo to "CBS This Morning" where he claimed that North Korea was "only a handful of months" from realizing the long-term goal of its nuclear weapons program: Developing a missile that could deliver a nuclear payload to the Continent US with a high degree of accuracy.
At the time, we cautioned that these remarks should be taken with a grain of salt, because Pompeo had repeated this same claim in the past.
But today, the issue was raised again, when US disarmament ambassador Robert Wood told a UN-sponsored disarmament forum that, by all reasonable intelligence accounts, the rogue state is mere months away from building an ICBM capable of striking anywhere within the Continental US.
To the objections of North Korean representatives, Wood demanded that the committee support the total and complete de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
"North Korea has accelerated its provocative pursuit of nuclear weapons and missile capabilities, and expressed explicit threats to use nuclear weapons against the United States and its allies in the region," U.S. disarmament ambassador Robert Wood told the Geneva forum.
"North Korean officials insist that they will not give up nuclear weapons, and North Korea may now be only months away from the capability to strike the United States with nuclear-armed ballistic missiles," he said.
A new U.S. nuclear policy review outlined last week “reaffirms that North Korea’s illicit nuclear program must be completely, verifiably, and irreversibly eliminated, resulting in a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons,” he said.
Predictably, the North Korean representatives at the meeting responded angrily, blaming Washington for escalating the conflict by holding military drills involving nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers in preparation for a preemptive strike.
“In view of the nature and scale of U.S. military reinforcements, they are designed to make a pre-emptive strike against the DPRK,” North Korean diplomat Ju Yong Chol told the talks, referring to his country’s official name the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“In view of the nature and scale of US military reinforcements, they are designed to make a pre-emptive strike against the DPRK,” North Korean diplomat Ju Yong Chol told the talks, referring to his country’s official name the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
When Woods was asked what the source was for his assessment, he said he had “no new information to share”.
Woods also accused the North of launching a deceptive "charm offensive" with their recent detente involving South Korea - including the two countries' decision to draft an inter-Korean women's ice hockey team.
Woods also pointed out that Russia, China and the North are all expanding their stockpiles, increasing the prominence of nuclear weapons in their security strategies.
“What I would call ‘the charm offensive’ frankly is fooling no one,” Wood told the talks.
He also said arsenals in China and Russia were expanding, drawing rebukes from their respective delegations.
“Russia, China and North Korea are growing their stockpiles, increasing the prominence of nuclear weapons in their security strategies, and - in some cases - pursuing the development of new nuclear capabilities to threaten other peaceful nations,” Wood said.
“We are not going to stick our head in the sand, we are going to respond to these growing challenges,” he later told reporters.
The US and the South have agreed to suspend their joint military exercises around the peninsula until after the Winter Games. Still, local security forces aren't ruling out the possibility of a North-Korean sponsored cyber attack.