North Korea's missile remarks, talking trash or real threat?
A new version of North Korea's Taepodong-2 missile sits on a launch pad prior to its launch last April. (CNN Photo)
October 9th, 2012
06:20 PM ET

North Korea's missile remarks, talking trash or real threat?

By Larry Shaughnessy

North Korea claims that it has ballistic missiles that can reach the mainland of the United States. If it does, the isolated Asian nation certainly hasn't offered any proof in spite of several attempts.

Even back in 2003, CIA Director George Tenet testified to Congress that the Taepodong-2 missile could hit the U.S. West Coast. But the potential has not translated into technical success.

Three times in the past six years, North Korea has launched long-range missiles that experts said had the potential of coming close to the U.S. mainland, an approximately 5,300-mile flight to the West Coast if fired in that direction. But all three failed, two of them almost immediately after launch.

Details of the launches:

– July 2006: North Korea startles the world by launching a Taepodong-2 long-range missile on the July 4th holiday. The missile flew for less than 40 seconds before it broke apart and fell harmlessly into the water about 200 miles west of Japan.

– April 2009: North Korea launched another Taepodong-2 missile. The communist regime claimed the missile carried a satellite that would go into orbit. But it later admitted that it failed to reach orbit. At the time, CNN quoted Japanese and South Korean defense officials that the missile flew for about a minute before crashing harmlessly into the sea about 2,300 miles from its launch pad.

– April 2012: As North Korea was starting a nationwide celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Ssung, the regime's founder, it launched an improved version of the Taepodong-2. It was again supposed to carry a satellite into orbit, this time in an orbit that would fly over each of the poles. But as in 2006, the missile failed spectacularly just moments after launch, with much of the debris falling into the water west of South Korea.

Three missile launches, three failures. But even if the North Koreans suddenly learn to launch a missile and get it to fly as far as planned, that still does not mean they are an immediate threat to the United States.

Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, wrote in 2009 that beyond its missile launches, North Korea would need to make three key additional breakthoughs to create a nuclear-armed missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

"First, North Korea has to develop a bigger, longer-range missile," he wrote, pointing out that it takes a big missile to fly that far with a heavy warhead on top.

"Second, North Korea would have to miniaturize its warhead," Cirincione said. The only nuclear device North Korea ever tested weighed 1,500 kilograms (3,300 pounds). That's 50% heavier than any North Korean missile is capable of carrying," he said.

"Third, North Korea would have to develop a re-entry vehicle for its warheads." Cirincione pointed out that warheads would have to survive extreme temperatures, vibrations and g-forces before it could destroy a target.

Cirincione concluded in 2009, "North Korea simply does not have the technical background or institutional capacity to achieve these three breakthroughs anytime soon."

Speaking to CNN on Tuesday, Cirincione said North Korea has not progressed on any of the three points.

"There is no evidence that North Korea is anywhere near capable of delivering a nuclear missile to the United States," Circincione added.

soundoff (72 Responses)
  1. columbus

    BTW- we have missiles that can reach North Korea, and ours don't fall apart on the way there.

    November 1, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Reply
  2. DC Observer

    I suspect there are 3-5 nuclear submarines parked off the coast of North Korea at all times with a full compliment of nuclear cruise missles capabale of changing North Korea's mountainous teraain to praire dust - and their flight time to Kim Jung Un Kimshi's presidential palace is about 4 1/2 minutes

    October 10, 2012 at 11:42 am | Reply
    • some guy

      You watch too many late ninety early 2000s hollywood military movies. Probably get off when/ if you read tom clancy. Real world is very different. SLBM's dont have to be parked off a coast , they have a range of 6000+ Miles. and 1 submarine can carry multiple missiles and pray that they dont respond in the way you did in retaliation because the after effects will crush the asian economy and as a result you will suffer or possible starve to death.

      October 10, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Reply
      • Jon

        While I do agree that only one sub thousands of miles away is all that's really necessary to neutralize NK militarily, I don't see the after effects (economically at least) will be as astounding as you believe. I am not an advocate for launching nukes and cruise missiles at NK just because they made a (probably non-credible) threat, but NK doesn't really give much to the world, it just takes. That's what isolationism does...

        October 11, 2012 at 11:24 am |
      • columbus

        Kill the Asian economy????? Are you kidding, everyone in the Pacific rim are just waiting for somebody to take out NK. Besides, it's a numbers game. North Korea would have to lob enough fireworks over for one or two to get through our ICBM defenses, don't think they have the capacity. The consequences would be the elimination of their military, and it most likely could be done conventionally.

        November 1, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  3. Rex Remes

    " ... the missile flew for about a minute before crashing harmlessly into the sea about 2,300 miles from its launch pad." wow!! That is one FAST missile. 2,300 miles in a minute = 120,000 miles per hour. What's that ... about Mach 170?

    October 10, 2012 at 11:06 am | Reply
  4. GOPisGreedOverPeople

    The GOP solution: Start a war with North Korea (totally unfunded of course). Then get the poor people to fight/die in the war while giving the rich people "no bid contracts". Thus killing two GOP birds with one stone. Then use North Korea's resources to pay for the war. And when the war is over, North Korea will sell us cheap resources. Oh wait.........North Korea doesn't have resources (oil). Oh well it's Iran then!!!!!!

    October 10, 2012 at 9:56 am | Reply
    • DC Observer

      Obama thinks there are 58 states – he is still trying to find the 8 he missed in his first campaign; I doubt Obama even knows where North Korea is located

      October 10, 2012 at 11:44 am | Reply
      • Chris

        Why do people like you exist?

        October 10, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  5. krm1007 ©™

    The denuclearization of South Asia (Subcontinent) particularly India is imperative.
    Quid pro quo transfer of nuclear technology by USA to third world countries such as India needs to be opposed on moral grounds. Billions of people live in that neighborhood and would be at risk from such catastrophes which I am sure the American people would not like to be a party to. We are all well aware that that region is prone to floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, massive power blackouts and of course terrorism placing such nuclear installations at tremendous risks. US Congress is urged to reconsider and cancel all the agreements for the transfer of such technologies due “Force Majeure”.

    October 10, 2012 at 7:58 am | Reply
    • ThaGerm

      See there's your problem, you think Congress are Americans. An easy mistake to make, but when you examine them a bit closer you find out they live by a completely different set of rules and for that matter morals than the rest of us. That's what happens when you are exempt from responsibility I guess. :(

      October 10, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Reply
  6. Just ignore them

    These people are attention starved drama queens (literally starving, and very much queens). They are only a threat to their own spineless people.

    The world should simply ignore them, complete news blackout on them. That would do more to change their behavior than all the of embargo's over the last half century.

    October 10, 2012 at 7:57 am | Reply
    • Joe

      Just because they are not fat like you doesn't mean they are starving does it ? These people are healthy lean and their Chinese friends look after them well.

      October 10, 2012 at 9:16 am | Reply
    • Patrick

      Nice going, Phunnie boy. Thanks for displaying your ignorance here! We need to engage and try to get North Korea to agree to get nuclear enery but not produce nuclear weapons just as the U.N. did South Africa. This, the right-wingers in Washington don't seem to want.

      October 10, 2012 at 9:18 am | Reply
  7. rosa

    Cualquier País que muestren las armas como esa fuerza de Poder hacia otras Naciones ofrece así mismo estos representantes del gobierno la escasez de sus conocimientos,puesto que no destruyen a demás países,mas bien así mismo elimina esa incompetencia de continuar dentro de la vida.
    Ni que decir hay que verificar cuán ignorancia la de mostrar misiles y esos Hombres llamados futuros del Progreso.¿Dónde queda pues dicho Conocimiento?. Y...¿Quienes son los amenazados?. Y...¿Y quienes los Triunfadores?.
    Diría aquel Sabio..." NO JUSTIFIQUES A LA VIOLENCIA NI A LA VICTORIA VANAGLORIES QUE LA MUERTE ES AQUELLA
    HUMILDAD Y DE ELLA TU MISMO ELIMINAR." ¿Quien tiene esa Osadía de Conquistar?..." AQUELLOS HOMBRES QUE A LA VIDA PRETENDAN CONQUISTAR QUE PRIMERO SABOREE LA MUERTE PORQUE EL EJE DEL EXISTIR LLEGO A SER,LA VIDA Y SU LEY."
    ¿Quien Sois Vos para mostrar esas Armas y destruir?.¿A caso es la Eternidad vuestro reino?. La Tierra continúa y mirad que ni espacio ni tiempo llego a tener.¿Con qué cuentan Vos, Hombres de Pensamientos y baratos?. ¿Es el Tiempo
    vuestro mandato?. Solo teneis aquel instante y momento,ni siquiera aquel Mañana, solo el INSTANTE , mientras que Yo,
    ésa Tierra Permanezco siempre y Eterna porque vuelvo a resurgir de la Nada y la Nada sois Vos,Hombre.

    October 10, 2012 at 7:06 am | Reply
  8. Andy in Oz

    I would suspect that in terms of capability being factual or trash talk it is most likely a little bit of both..... talking up their capability which is most likely still in its infancy but does exist.

    October 10, 2012 at 4:50 am | Reply
  9. Keith

    a few American drone strikes will cure thing if need be.

    October 10, 2012 at 4:47 am | Reply
    • cacalips

      Actually it wont. The studies show that Drones have 2% Success rate. MEaning all high profile targets have been rare hits and more collateral and innocent targets are dead 98% of the time

      October 10, 2012 at 6:12 am | Reply
      • DC Observer

        And that intelligence comes from where - a cereal box? or a video game?

        October 10, 2012 at 11:46 am |
      • Chris

        I'm guessing those stats are made up but ok glad to see your living in a dream world.

        October 10, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • Joe

      They should have a drone strike on your house to cure your murderous ways.

      October 10, 2012 at 9:18 am | Reply
      • Patrick

        Good posting, Joe. Maybe these right-wing nutjobs like this Keith above would be cured of their love for those godless drones if they and their families were to suddenly find themselves on the receiving end of those ungodly aircraft!

        October 10, 2012 at 9:28 am |
      • Marine5484

        Thank you, Joe. I fully agree. Like you said, maybe the right-wing fanatics like Keith would be cured of their love of those ungodly drones if they and their families should find themselves on the receiving end like Patrick already stated above. This right-wing fanaticism needs to end and how!

        October 10, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • some guy

      N Korea is one of the world most heavily defended air space, they dont spend on jets instead they spend on SAM sites and pyongyang has thrice may be 5 times more than in washington dc. Your drone will not even be able to enter its airspace. Read.

      October 10, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Reply
  10. paul martin dj foreign coresspondent

    Oh they do possess the nuclear ability to launch an ICBM to anywhere yes...but it would be destroyed more than likely by the US navy and airforce long before it reached the US. Then Pyongyang would be unrecognizable in a VERY SHORT TIME !

    October 10, 2012 at 4:42 am | Reply
  11. bikinihut

    The reason the US doesn't do anything to N. Korea is because we've seen the capabilities of their so called "missiles".. they fly about 20 feet and fall apart.. their technology is only slightly better than something homemade.. kind of like China's new aircraft carrier and fighter planes.. why would anyone worry? i'm sure you've experienced China's quality control from any purchase at a wal-mart or any other crappy US retailer.. no matter what it is.. it's only gonna work for a moment, then when you really need it, it will break.. hard to get quality products with forced child labor.. Only the threat of a land war in Asia would be cause for worry.. which i believe was one of the classic blunders you should never fall prey to.. and it's also entirely inconceivable..

    October 10, 2012 at 3:54 am | Reply
    • Awabnavi

      Why is the US SO concerned about Iran nukes than N. Korean nukes? Iran never claimed that their missiles could reach the US while North Korea claims it. The US should pay more attention to ELIMINATING N. KOREAN nukes than paying SUCH A LOT of attention and much BLUSTER aimed at stopping Iran from getting NUKES. LOL!

      October 10, 2012 at 9:14 am | Reply
      • ThaGerm

        Because Iran has already committed itself publicly to destroying Israel as soon as it can...meaning that if it gets a nuke it will use it immediately on a target that is within it's capabilities to hit. North Korea is a joke, the only way they are getting a nuke anywhere is truck or boat.

        October 10, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
      • StanCalif

        Because N.Korea is no threat to Israel!!! All members of Congress are more loyal to Israel than to us citizens, so rattle the sabre at Iran some more! Soon N.Korea will get jealous (again) at the lack of attention and actually do something stupid. Iran is not likely to be a military threat to anyone!

        October 10, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Daniel

      I might need to buy umbrella to protect from it.......

      October 10, 2012 at 11:06 am | Reply
    • richajam

      ..So what you are saying... and it makes sense is: ... to pretend that they are being attacked( somehow without actualy doing it)... and let them launch their own missles to realiate and then let those trusty missles fall appart before they get 20 miles from the launchpad back in to NKorea. Right?

      Absolutely Brilliant!!

      October 10, 2012 at 11:20 am | Reply
    • some guy

      Or that they might just flip out and Nuke or declare war on S korea eventually wiping out or severely incapacitating US Forces in Korea (which BTW is about 28, 000 US service members. A unfathomable casualty rate not seen since the viet nam war , and no sane president wants to cause that.

      October 10, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Reply
  12. Awabnavi

    I wonder why the US does not threaten to take out N. Korea's nuclear installations when it is so CLEARLY THREATENING the US with an attack capability. There is only one word and one reason for this. N. Korea's "NUKES". The US only threatens and attacks NON NUCLEAR NATIONS. It has NEVER attacked a NUCLEAR POWER. The lesson is OBVIOUS. If you want to avoid attacks and occupation GO NUCLEAR.

    October 10, 2012 at 2:44 am | Reply
    • Mia

      You said it so well, the USA only show it gay muscles on the weak, those who have muscles that can break it jaw and disable will never be threatened by the USA.

      October 10, 2012 at 2:59 am | Reply
      • DC Observer

        When a big dog barks at you, it is because he is scared and is tryuing to get you to stay away from his territory.

        When a big dog does not say anything, watch out becasue he could be biting you very soon

        October 10, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • ThaGerm

      Wow, if it isn't right in front of your face you just don't see it do you. The reason the US doesn't attack N. Korea is because they are backed by China. The reason the US doesn't attack Syria is they are backed by China AND Russia. This is obviously to complicated for you or your dolt friend below.

      October 10, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Reply
  13. Rocketman

    North Korea does not possess the technology to send a missile to the US. The last missile it launched made that clear. It's different stages were built with practically ancient Chinese and Soviet parts. It looked like a used car that had seen better days. It was obvious to me that it would go off like a roman candle, which it did.

    October 10, 2012 at 2:28 am | Reply
  14. FoxTrot

    N. Korea is about the same size as Pennsylvania, shouldn't be that hard to drop a Cruise Missile on each target.

    October 10, 2012 at 2:06 am | Reply
  15. FoxTrot

    The missiles in the photo look like our old Nike-Hercules

    October 10, 2012 at 2:01 am | Reply
  16. JC

    Simple US reply: We have a missile that can reach you too.

    October 10, 2012 at 1:48 am | Reply
    • richajam

      ...or 2. Maybe even 3, but we may have to count to be 100% sure.

      October 10, 2012 at 11:23 am | Reply
    • ThaGerm

      A better US reply? Surface all of the nuclear subs sitting of the coast of N Korea for just a peek. That says, "You will never see your missile land". It takes hours to reach the US from there and minutes to launch a nuclear submarine counterstrike that would wipe out the country in about 15 minutes.

      October 10, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Reply
  17. Mr Semenbelly

    Youse fools are all bishes

    October 10, 2012 at 1:15 am | Reply
  18. NK

    North Korea don't need to test long range missiles as they received this technology as a gift from Iran and China and already tested

    October 10, 2012 at 12:28 am | Reply
    • ThaGerm

      Iran has neither nuclear capability OR long range ICBM capability so I am guessing you didn't put a whole lot of thought into your comment.

      October 10, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Reply
  19. fernando HAROLD

    N Korea don't have eny powerful missailes,N Korea have only very old type SAM systems,but it's not proper functions through RADAR or DME......if they point to (as a example) Arab region it's go to Australia.......

    October 10, 2012 at 12:00 am | Reply
  20. Talking sense

    Just trash talkin. What else from North Korea?

    October 9, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Reply
  21. nick

    Is north korea this stupid? If they try to shoot one of these missles at the us. North korea is going to be a parking lot for south korea.

    October 9, 2012 at 11:15 pm | Reply
    • Sinbad

      No of course North Korea doesn't want a war with the US. The US has been threatening North Korea since the 1950's and they are understandably paranoid that the US will attack them. You have to remember the US has a long history of attacking other countries.

      October 10, 2012 at 1:04 am | Reply
  22. Sinbad

    The reason North Korea has had difficulties manufacturing long range missiles is their inability to get some of the materials needed. Now that the US has agreed to allow South Korea to produce missiles capable of hitting China, the Chinese will probably respond by selling the necessary metals to North Korea. So even if North Korea cannot hit the US at the moment, it will be able to in a few years.

    October 9, 2012 at 9:50 pm | Reply
    • Lol

      Save it you chink.

      October 9, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Reply
  23. aztec69

    I'm so tired of those old photos of ever older Nike missiles that we sold to the South Koreans a generation ago. If they had to use them in anger they'd probably hurt more South Koreans than North Koreans. Time to update your photo bank, guys.

    October 9, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Reply
    • Jerry

      Actually, bubba, those old Nike missiles still form the backbone of S. Korea's long-range air defense forces. They are also not the only country where this is still so.

      October 10, 2012 at 12:55 am | Reply
  24. paxmelanoleuca

    Still not really sure if this even matters, years ago the U.S. had the technology to shoot down ballistic missiles in the launch phase via airborne laser. Assuming this system still exists (and I'm fairly confident it does) it had the range to take down such missiles from outside the range of North Korean anti-aircraft systems... They may have the missiles, but for them to pull of an actual successful launch would require both a demonstration of skill I don't believe them capable of, and an equally shocking level of incompetence on the part of the U.S. military and strategic planners.

    Boeing Missile Defense System

    October 9, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Reply
    • trex

      ........OK...............here is OUR TERMS.....................................FOOD, ........OR ANNIALATION........................................NK, you choose...............................

      October 9, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Reply
    • Theo

      The ABL program was cancelled in Dec 2011 after wasting $5B. The YAL-1A 747-400F is sitting in the boneyard. Btw, it has to be within 360 mi of a liquid fueled missile; 180 mi of a solid fueled missile. In real terms, you basically have to circle the launch site waiting for a launch and have total air superiority. Before you call our military planners incompetent, you may want to look inward as this information is in the public domain...try Googling it next time.

      October 10, 2012 at 12:02 am | Reply
  25. paxmelanoleuca

    Still not really sure if this even matters, years ago the U.S. had the technology to shoot down ballistic missiles in the launch phase via airborne laser. Assuming this system still exists (and I'm fairly confident it does) it had the range to take down such missiles from outside the range of North Korean anti-aircraft systems... They may have the missiles, but for them to pull of an actual successful launch would require both a demonstration of skill I don't believe them capable of, and an equally shocking level of incompetence on the part of the U.S. military and strategic planners.

    http://www.boeing.com/defense-space/military/abl/index.html

    October 9, 2012 at 9:02 pm | Reply
    • ChicagoRich

      I believe that the airborne laser project, contracted out to Boeing if I recall correctly, was cancelled as part of previous budget cuts. That system sounds like what you were referring to. I don't think we have ever had an actually operational system to shoot down missiles with lasers. In that system, you had to have the airliner that housed the laser per-positioned and ready to fire prior to the enemies launching of their missile too. The only operational systems I am aware of involved missiles being fired at the enemies missiles or warheads, such as the Patriot Missile System, and I am not sure how effective that would be against intercontinental ballistic missiles.

      October 9, 2012 at 9:41 pm | Reply
    • Lol

      The only people who believe North Korea's claims are chinks...........

      October 9, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Reply
      • NK

        Lol , you are talking rubbish without having any logical reason. North Korea don't need to test long range missiles as they received this technology as a gift from Iran and China and already tested :-)

        October 10, 2012 at 12:27 am |
  26. Kevin

    George, you probably believe that no country is a threat, but when they attack us youll regret your comment.

    October 9, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Reply
  27. George Patton

    Now watch as the right-wing thugs in Washington try to use this as yet another way to scare the American public into supporting all this unnecessary and excessive military spending. Unfortunately, this has proved to be only too successful up to now!!!

    October 9, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Reply
    • ChicagoRich

      I don't know George, the government there is claims to be working on improving their ability to launch nukes at the U.S. Shouldn't that actually make us a bit nervous?

      October 9, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Reply
      • Mahatma

        ChicagoRich, you are a puppet for the military industrial complex. We should stop all defense spending and devote that money to alleviate the suffering of the poor. Pacifism is the new civil rights. It worked so well for Tibet.

        October 9, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
      • Lol

        The only people who should be nervous are chinks.....

        October 9, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
      • Steve

        Its funny to watch you paid bloggers bicker...

        October 9, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
      • Talking sense

        Not at all ChicagoRich. They know full well their entire country would be turned into glass should they decide to use a nuc on us. Self assured destruction. That goes for anyone else in the world who would think of doing such a thing. Are you listening Iran?

        October 9, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
      • NK

        Talking sense ..... don't talk about Iran as you are unaware of geographical conditions. Iran has an area of 1,648,000 square kilometres (636,000 sq mi) with a only a total population of 40 million only and majority of land is difficult mountains. Therefore if any one attacks on Iran , it will be very very difficult to find and hit the target in huge mountain area.

        October 10, 2012 at 12:35 am |
    • Lol

      Don't be a chink George!

      October 9, 2012 at 10:44 pm | Reply
    • Talking sense

      Romney wants to quadruple our military too.

      October 9, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Reply

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