Does North Korea have nuke warheads for their missiles or not?
The Defense Intelligence Agency says yes - or, at least a Congressman reports that they think that they do - while the Pentagon says no.
With newly-revealed U.S. intelligence showing that North Korea may already be able to arm a missile with a nuclear warhead, President Obama said on Thursday that North Korea must end its "belligerent approach."
After meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon at the White House on Thursday, Obama said they both agreed that it was time to "lower temperatures."
"Nobody wants to see a conflict on the Korean peninsula," Obama said. "But it's important for North Korea, like every other country in the world, to observe the basic rules and norms that are set forth, including a wide variety of U.N. resolutions."
Obama's rebuke came as a new U.S. intelligence report was made public showing North Korea probably has advanced its nuclear knowhow to the point that it could arm a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead, though the weapon wouldn't be very reliable.
The latest U.S. intelligence assessment on North Korea was revealed Thursday at a public hearing on Capitol Hill. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., read from what he said was an unclassified segment of a classified Defense Intelligence Agency report on North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
The report shows that DIA has "moderate confidence" that North Korea possesses the ability to put a nuclear weapon on a missile, according to a senior Pentagon official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the report. The report, the official said, concludes that the reliability of such a weapon would be low.
A Capitol Hill aide familiar with the report but not authorized to speak on the record downplayed its significance. It is one of many perspectives within the intelligence community and does not represent a consensus view, the aide said. North Korea does not appear close to having the capability to match a nuclear warhead to a rocket capable of ... reaching the United States and detonating, the source said.
Pentagon press secretary George Little also downplayed the threat. "It would be inaccurate to suggest that the North Korean regime has fully tested, developed or demonstrated the kinds of nuclear capabilities referenced in the passage," he said.
There's no evidence that the North Koreans have been able to miniaturize its nukes so that they would fit on top of a missle. Nor have the North Koreans demonstrated the technical expertise to construct a highly sophisticated device with engineering tolerances far beyond what anyone thinks they are capable of. This doesn't mean they haven't mastered the process of warhead making. It just makes it unlikely.
The same goes for the Iranians, who may not even have a workable bomb design yet.
Iran and North Korea are third world countries with few western educated scientists and engineers. While there is evidence that North Korea has had considerable assistance from Pakistan (Iran may be receiving help from Russia), knowing how to construct a warhead and actually doing so are two different things. That's why US intelligence appears divided on the question.