The Pentagon rushed to tamp down alarm after a lawmaker read a section of a Defense Intelligence Agency report at a House Armed Services Committee meeting indicating North Korea had nuclear missiles.
“They say, ‘DIA assess with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles. However, the reliability will be low.’ General, would you agree with that assessment by DIA?” Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) asked Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey at today’s hearing.
“I can’t touch that one,” Dempsey responded, noting the report had not yet been released even though “some of it’s classified, some of it’s unclassified.”
“You said it’s not publicly released, so I choose not to comment on it,” Dempsey said when pressed to answer whether he agreed with the assessment.
“In today’s House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Department of Defense budget, a member of the committee read an unclassified passage in a classified report on North Korea’s nuclear capabilities,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement this evening.
“While I cannot speak to all the details of a report that is classified in its entirety, 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 continued. “The United States continues to closely monitor the North Korean nuclear program and calls upon North Korea to honor its international obligations.”
Dempsey was asked at a Pentagon briefing with reporters yesterday if North Korea had been able to “mate a nuclear warhead to a ballistic missile that could reach Japan” or farther.
“Well, the proximity of the North Koreans to achieving a miniaturization of a nuclear device on a ballistic missile is really a matter of — is a classified matter. But they have conducted two nuclear tests,” Dempsey responded. “They have conducted several successful ballistic missile launches. And in the absence of concrete evidence to the contrary, we have to assume the worst case, and that’s — that’s why we’re postured as we are today.”