North Korea’s threats to attack the United States have been described as ‘unhelpful rhetoric’ by the White House, but they have not been totally dismissed.
The commander of American forces in the Pacific was asked by Senator John McCain of the Senate Armed Services Committee if the US could defend itself.
Admiral Samuel Locklear replied: “I believe we have the credible ability to defend the homeland, to defend Hawaii, to defend Guam, to defend our forward deployed forces and defend our allies.”
Senator John McCain went on: “Do we have the capability to intercept a missile if the North Koreans launch within the next several days?”
“We do,” Locklear answered.
The admiral described North Korea’s Kim Jong-un as “an impetuous young leader”.
The United States has moved a land-based interception system to Guam in the Pacific and two missile defence ships have been sent closer to the Korean peninsula.
Estimates of North Korea military power
- 1 000 missiles in any reach: Rodong-1 (reach 1 300 km), Taepodong-1 (2 500 km) tested and successful ; Musudan-1 (3 000 km+) never publicly tested ; Taepondong-2 (6 700 km+) failed
- The ballistic capacity allows Pyongyang to equip its missiles with conventional and chemical charges. No ability to mate a nuclear head to one of those missiles yet
- At least thre nuclear sites; three nuclear tests (2006, 2009, march 2013). The regime could own enough plutonium for at least six nuclear bombs
- Chemical weapons: anthrax, sulfur mustard, sarin, phosgene… (estimated in between 2500 and 5000 tons). A bacteriological weapon program under development but the stage has remained unknown so far
- 13 500 tons of artillery, 70 submarines, 420 warships and 820 warplanes
- Troops gather more than a million soldiers and reach almost eight millions in store