North Korea could be a direct threat to the US within five years, with intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear warhead across the ocean, Robert Gates said today. “I don’t think it’s an immediate threat,” Gates said, according to the New York Times, “but on the other hand, I don’t think it’s a five-year threat.” The statement marks a major shift for the administration, which until now has considered Pyongyang merely a proliferation threat.
Gates was in Beijing today, meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao to discuss strengthening relations between the two countries. But mere hours before their meeting, China ran a test flight on its new stealth fighter, in an apparent show of strength for the US. When Gates raised the issue at the meeting, Hu professed not to know about it, and said it had “absolutely nothing to do with my visit,” Gates said, adding that he fears the military may be acting without government control. “I’ve had concerns about this over time,’’ he said.