The Pentagon on Thursday said for the first time that North Korea may be able arm a missile with a nuclear warhead.
The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) said the weapon’s “reliability will be low,” but stressed with “moderate confidence,” that Pyongyang could develop the missile, reported the New York Times.
“DIA assesses with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles however the reliability will be low,” the agency said, according to Bloomberg News. A spokeswoman with the agency did not confirm if the sentence was accurate or taken out of context.
But a U.S. official told the agency that the Pentagon is more skeptical about North Korea’s weapons capabilities than the sentence suggests.
“We don’t know if North Korea can mount nuclear weapons on ballistic missiles, but there is a reasonable chance they can on at least their shorter-range missiles,” Bruce Bennett, a defense analyst at Rand Corp., according to the news agency. He said that “it is very unlikely” that a North Korea-launched missile could reach the United States.
The Pentagon assessment was first commented on by Representative Doug Lamborn of Colorado at a budget hearing for the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday, according to the Times.
President Barack Obama on Thursday called on North Korea to end its nuclear threats to the U.S. and its allies, saying that his administration would take any necessary step in protecting Americans.
“Nobody wants to see a conflict on the Korean Peninsula,” Obama said.
On Thursday, North Korea said it has “powerful striking means” on standby, following a series of threats over the past several weeks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.