BEIJING (NYT) — In a major new assessment of North Korea, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said on Tuesday that the country is becoming a direct threat to the United States and was within five years of developing a missile with the potential of hitting Alaska or the West Coast. (Note: And therefore also Hawaii.)
Mr. Gates said that although he expected North Korea’s ability to be limited, he anticipated the country would still develop within that time frame a small number of intercontinental ballistic missiles that could at least potentially deliver nuclear warheads. “I don’t think it’s an immediate threat, but on the other hand I don’t think it’s a five-year threat,” Mr. Gates said….
Mr. Gates’ new assessment on North Korea is a significant shift for the Obama administration, which until now has viewed Pyongyang as a proliferation threat, fearing that it might sell its existing missiles and nuclear devices to other countries, like Iran. But Mr. Gates changed that emphasis, which is likely to fuel a movement to expand a military base at Fort Greely, Alaska, armed with interceptor missiles designed to stop a North Korean missile before it hits the United States.
Implicit in Mr. Gates’s five-year assessment was the possibility that the North could soon solve one of its biggest technological hurdles: manufacturing a warhead small enough to fit atop a missile….
AP: Gates: North Korea will pose direct threat to U.S.