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North Korea Hasn’t Shown Nuclear Missile Ability: Clapper

U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said North Korea hasn’t yet shown it’s able to arm a missile with a nuclear weapon, taking issue with another U.S. intelligence agency’s finding that the totalitarian regime may now have that capability.

Clapper was referring to part of a report by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency that said North Korea now may have some nuclear weapons small enough to be delivered by its ballistic missiles. The DIA finding, which surfaced in a House committee hearing earlier today, isn’t an assessment shared by the broader U.S. intelligence community, Clapper said today in a statement.

“North Korea has not yet demonstrated the full range of capabilities necessary for a nuclear-armed missile,” he said.

Clapper’s remarks exposed an unusual public rift between U.S. intelligence and national-security agencies. The episode erupted when a portion of the defense agency’s assessment was cited by Representative Doug Lamborn during a hearing today of the House Armed Services Committee.

Lamborn, a Colorado Republican who’s seeking additional money for missile defense, read the only sentence in the seven-page agency report that’s been declassified. That passage says: “DIA assesses with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles however the reliability will be low.”

George Little, a Pentagon spokesman, said later in a statement that “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.”

Clapper said later he concurred with Little’s statement.

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