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Reports conflict on North Korea's nuclear capabilities

12:14 AM, Apr 12, 2013   |    comments
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(USA Today) WASHINGTON - With newly-revealed U.S.intelligence showing that North Korea may already be able to arm a missile with a nuclear warhead, President Obama said on Thursday that North Korea must end its "belligerent approach."

After meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon at the White House on Thursday, Obama said they both agreed that it was time to "lower temperatures."

"Nobody wants to see a conflict on the Korean peninsula," Obama said. "But it's important for North Korea, like every other country in the world, to observe the basic rules and norms that are set forth, including a wide variety of U.N. resolutions."

Obama's rebuke came as a new U.S. intelligencereport was made public showing North Korea probably has advanced its nuclear knowhow to the point that it could arm a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead, though the weapon wouldn't be very reliable.

The latest U.S. intelligence assessment on North Korea was revealed Thursday at a public hearing on Capitol Hill. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., read from what he said was an unclassified segment of a classified Defense Intelligence Agency report on North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

The report shows that DIA has "moderate confidence" that North Korea possesses the ability to put a nuclear weapon on a missile, according to a senior Pentagon official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the report. The report, the official said, concludes that the reliability of such a weapon would be low.

A Capitol Hill aide familiar with the report but not authorized to speak on the record downplayed its significance. It is one of many perspectives within the intelligence community and does not represent a consensus view, the aide said. North Korea does not appear close to having the capability to match a nuclear warhead to a rocket capable of ... reaching the United States and detonating, the source said.

Pentagon press secretary George Little also downplayed the threat. "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," he said.

The report is one of many in the intelligence community about the North Korean threat and is not considered the final word, the official cautioned. In fact, some government analysts do not believe the North possesses the capability, the official said.

The United States, South Korea and other countries have become increasingly alarmed by Kim Jong Un's increasingly provocative rhetoric.

For weeks, North Korea has made threats against the United States and South Korea.North Korea also this week told foreign diplomats that it would no longer be able to guarantee the safety of foreigners in Seoul.

Obama and the secretary-general met hours after reports that a North Korean missile had been briefly raised to an upright firing position, stoking concerns that a launch is imminent.

"We will continue to try to work to resolve some of those issues diplomatically even as I indicated to the secretary-general that the United States will take all necessary steps to protect its people and to meet our obligations under our alliances in the region," Obama said.

Earlier Thursday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the House Armed Services Committee that the Pentagon will have enough resources under Obama's new budget proposal to cope with North Korea.

Republicans weren't convinced the budget will provide for the nation's security.

"I'd like to hear which missions we must now abandon, reduce or cancel outright to comply with the president's budget - because I don't see the world getting safer," said Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of Armed Services.

Hagel also told the committee that neither North Korea nor Iran had the capability to launch a nuclear weapon against the United States.

"Now does that mean that they won't have it or they can't have it or they're not working on it?" Hagel said about North Korea. "No."

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