Pentagon report shows N. Korea capable of arming missile with nuke, officials downplay finding

Obama administration officials scrambled to downplay the errant disclosure of a classified portion of an intelligence report finding that North Korea has advanced its nuclear knowledge to the point that it could arm a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead.

The analysis, disclosed Thursday at a hearing on Capitol Hill, says the Pentagon’s intelligence wing has “moderate confidence” that North Korea has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles but that the weapon was unreliable.

The revelation was significant, because it has not been previously reported or believed that the country had the ability to miniaturize and deliver a nuclear weapon.

But top U.S. officials repeatedly stressed that the finding does not mean North Korea has the capabilities to launch a nuclear missile with any reliability at this point.

“It is inaccurate to suggest that the (North Korea) has the capability articulated in that report — they have a missile but that is very different than having the militarization, nuclearization, etcetera,” Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday, after landing in South Korea as part of a tour of Asian countries.

On Thursday night, the Pentagon and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper both downplayed the report.

“While I cannot speak to all the details of a report that is classified in its entirety, it would be inaccurate to suggest that the North Korean regime has fully tested, developed, or demonstrated the kinds of nuclear capabilities referenced in the passage,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said. Clapper echoed the assessment.

Meanwhile, North Korea was leveling new threats Friday. According to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, the regime warned that Tokyo would, in the event of a war, be the first target “if it continues to maintain its hostile posture.” North Korea was apparently threatening Japan because it vowed to destroy any missile heading toward the country.

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