Range yes, accuracy maybe: US Air Force general on North Korean missiles

Range yes, accuracy maybe: US Air Force general on North Korean missiles
Recent tests show that North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) have the range to reach the continental US, but the question remains whether they can actually hit anything, the second-highest ranking US military officer told the Senate.

US Air Force General Paul Selva appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday to be re-confirmed as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for another two-year term.

In the course of the hearing, he said he agreed “on principle” with the intelligence assessment that North Korea was moving quickly to develop ICBM capability, adding that the July 4 missile test showed they had the range to reach the continental US.

“On range, they clearly have the capability,” Selva told Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma).

“I, however, am not saying that the test on the Fourth of July demonstrates that they have the capacity to strike the United States with any degree of accuracy or reasonable confidence of success,” Selva added. “What the experts tell me is that North Koreans have yet to demonstrate the capacity to do the guidance and control that would be required.”

Missile experts quoted in the US media have said the July 4 test showed that Pyongyang’s ICBMs could reach at least Alaska, though perhaps not the lower 48 states just yet. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, however, sensor data from the test suggests an intermediate-range missile (IRBM) rather than an ICBM.

Selva’s comments come after a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that four out of five Americans see North Korea as a threat to the US, and two out of three consider it a “serious” threat. Nearly 75 percent of respondents were concerned about the possibility of a full-scale war, with half of them “very” concerned, the poll showed.

Only a third of the respondents overall expressed trust in President Donald Trump’s ability to handle the situation, and 40 percent said they trusted him “not at all.”

Langer Research Associates, which produced the poll for ABC and the Post, noted that the respondents were very polarized politically. Democrats were more inclined to fear full-scale war at 86 percent, while 68 percent of Republicans and independents shared their concerns. Likewise, 87 percent of Democrats and only 19 percent of Republicans said they didn’t trust Trump to handle the crisis.

Women were much less likely to trust Trump and more likely to worry about full-scale war and see North Korea as a serious threat, the pollsters said.

The US military has been intensively testing its missile defenses in recent months. At the end of May, an  Alaska-based missile defense system achieved the first-ever ICBM intercept, prompting officials to declare the US was capable of countering the North Korean threat.

On July 11, a test of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, also in Alaska, successfully intercepted an IRBM target.

The US deployed a number of THAAD systems to South Korea earlier this year. The country’s new president, Moon Jae-in, has halted any further deployments, however, and called for direct talks with the North Korean government on de-escalating the crisis on the Korean Peninsula.