North Korea Could Hit US With Nuke Sooner Than Expected
According to confidential assessment form Pentagon
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 25, 2017 5:48 PM CDT
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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, second from right, inspects the preparation of the launch of a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile July 4 in North Korea.   (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)

(Newser) – North Korea could be able to strike the US with nuclear weapons a whole lot sooner than previously believed, the Washington Post reports. The Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency in a confidential assessment concluded North Korea could have a "reliable, nuclear-capable ICBM" in 2018. Officials say North Korea is only a few months out from industrial production of such missiles. That's at least two years earlier than previous estimates. The change in timeline was spurred by North Korea's test of an ICBM on July 4. “In the last year they have gained capabilities that they didn’t have, including ones that we thought they would not have been able to obtain for years," says a former mission manager for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The Pentagon expects another North Korean missile test this week—"probably" on July 27, the 64th anniversary of the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement, AFP reports. The test could be the second of a North Korean ICBM missile. "We will strike a merciless blow at the heart of the US with our powerful nuclear hammer, honed and hardened over time," North Korea stated Tuesday. According to CNN, the country was responding to comments made last week by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who said the US needs to figure out how to keep Kim Jong Un from a nuclear arsenal. "The North Korean people I'm sure are lovely people and would love to see him go," Pompeo said. North Korea threatened to "preemptively annihilate" any country that tries to oust Kim.

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