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Expert says North Korea's missile threat could extend much farther than currently believed

Heritage Foundation expert Bruce Klingner says estimates that North Korea is currently able to only strike the U.S. West Coast are "outdated," suggesting the Hermit Kingdom could potentially strike as far away as New York City, Miami or Washington, D.C. (Image source: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

After North Korea launched an intermediate ballistic missile into Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone this week, some analysts warned that North Korea already has the capability to make a nuclear warhead missile hit Alaska, but one expert warns that threat assessment is "outdated."

Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow at Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., told TheBlaze last week that there is evidence to suggest that North Korea is currently able to strike not only Alaska with a nuclear warhead, but the U.S. West Coast, and beyond.

Klingner said that while North Korea's launch on Tuesday involved an intermediate range missile, capable of reaching Alaska or Hawaii, the country has also experimented with longer-range missiles, called intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs.

These long-range missiles, Klingner said, could potentially reach as far as New York City, Miami and Washington, D.C.

Klingner said that when North Korea launched a rocket into space in December 2012, which later fell into the ocean, the South Korean Navy retrieved the pieces of the satellite. Klingner said that South Korean officials determined the rocket was able to travel 10,000 kilometers.

"That's down to Missouri. That's 40 percent of the continental U.S. That's 120 million Americans," Klingner pointed out.

Then, in February 2017, North Korea launched another rocket into orbit. Again, the rocket fell into the ocean, and the South Korean Navy fetched the pieces to determine just how much advancement North Korea had achieved.

"People now think it's a 13,000-kilometer range, which is all the way down to Miami," Klingner told TheBlaze.

But North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and his regime aren't stopping there, according to the Heritage Foundation expert. Klingner said that North Korea is in the process of developing a road mobile rocket engine that could reach targets much farther away than the U.S. West Coast.

Klingner said that experts have examined photos of the same types of rocket engines with which North Korea is working.

"They think when deployed, the road mobile would be able to reach New York and Washington, [D.C.]," Klingner said.

Just who are the "people" who are saying the threat is far more imminent than what many in the U.S. think?

Klingner cited several U.S. officials who have said as much in recent months and years. One of those officials was Vice Adm. James Syring.

"It is incumbent on us to assume that North Korea today can range the United States with an ICBM carrying a nuclear warhead," Syring testified before the House Armed Services Committee in June.

In October 2016, former Director of National Intelligence James Council said at the Council on Foreign Relations, "We ascribe to [North Korea] the capability to launch a missile that would have a weapon on it to reach parts of the United States, certainly including Alaska and Hawaii."

Arms control specialist Jeffrey Lewis wrote in April 2016 that the North Koreans had made progress on an ICBM that, "rather than simply hitting the West Coast, an operational North Korean ICBM could probably reach targets throughout the United States, including Washington, D.C., with a nuclear weapon."

"In other words, the Map of Death is real," Lewis wrote at the time. "We can stop laughing any time now. The joke is on us."

North Korea's latest missile test on Tuesday came days after Trump's meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, during which Trump "reaffirmed that the United States will defend the ROK [South Korea] against any attack" [from North Korea]. "Both presidents remain committed to jointly addressing the threat posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) [North Korea]," a U.S.-South Korea joint statement read.

While former President Barack Obama claimed that the U.S. had maxed out on economic sanctions against the Hermit Kingdom, Klinger said that's just "flat out wrong."

“[T]here is a misperception by many that we’ve maxed out, including President Obama when he said that North Korea was the most heavily sanctioned, most cut-off nation on Earth,” Klingner told TheBlaze.

As Politico's Peter Harrell pointed out, "North Korea’s economy is not as isolated from the global economy as most Americans believe," especially when it comes to China. Trump has made clear that he believes China's could play a critical role in making sure North Korea does not carry out any nuclear strikes. But as the president himself pointed out, the effort to get China onboard with more North Korea sanctions has so far failed.

“While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!” Trump tweeted in June.

One last thing…
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