It wasn’t so long ago that the threat of a nuclear-armed North Korea striking the United States seemed like a faraway concern. Past presidents including Bill Clinton brushed off the threat as improbable, and assured the American people that diplomacy and friendly handshakes would keep warheads out of the regime’s hands.
Fast-forward to this week. A top intelligence expert has just confirmed every hawk’s worst fears: The rogue nation could be able to hit the U.S. by the rapidly approaching end of the year.
“It is the case that they are close enough now in their capabilities that from a U.S. policy perspective, we ought to behave as if we are on the cusp of them achieving that objective,” CIA Director Mike Pompeo warned on Thursday.
America’s top spy told the Foundation for Defense of Democracies that North Korea’s nuclear warhead delivery program was no longer a laughing matter, but something that could legitimately target the United States mainland soon.
“When you’re now talking about months, our capacity to understand that at the detailed level is in some sense irrelevant,” he said, according to the Washington Examiner.
“Whether it happens on Tuesday or a month from Tuesday, we are at a time where the president has concluded that we need a global effort to ensure that Kim Jong Un doesn’t have that capacity,” Pompeo said.
Of course, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s threats of nuclear strikes are no secret, and have dominated headlines for months. However, it was long believed that while Pyongyang was dangerous to its Asian neighbors, the United States was kept safe by the wide Pacific ocean.
If Pompeo is right, that security could be fading fast.
“They are closer now than they were five years ago, and I expect they will be closer in five months than they are today, absent a global effort to push back against them,” Pompeo said. “It’s now a matter of thinking about, ‘how do you stop the final step?’”
That “final step” referred to the actual launch of a nuclear missile toward the United States or its allies.
“It’s one thing to be able to deliver a single missile along a certain set of trajectories to a certain destination,” Pompeo said.
“Even once you hit the he-can-do-it-once moment, there’s great risk that proceeds from the continuation of the development of those programs that far exceeds the moment that there is a consensus revolving around whether (Kim) can reliably pull it off for a single missile system,” he continued.
That’s a risk the United States can’t afford.
The time to prevent a nuclear-armed North Korea was a decade or two ago. Trump’s administration has inherited a problem that was created long before they took office, but it may now be up to the 45th president to end it.
Even Americans who don’t support the administration better hope he can do it.
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