South Korea Doubts North Korea Has ICBM Re-Entry Technology

  • Spy chief says North Korea missiles lack some key features
  • North Korea claims its ICBM can carry large nuclear warhead

No Evident Progress on North Korea at G-20 Summit

South Korea has disputed North Korea’s claim to have an intercontinental ballistic missile that can strike the U.S. mainland, saying Kim Jong Un’s regime may not yet have re-entry capability for such projectiles.

The re-entry feature of North Korea’s missile program is not established, said Yi Wan-young, a South Korean lawmaker who was briefed by National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon on Tuesday in a closed-door session for lawmakers.

Re-entry capability is critical for intermediate-range missiles and ICBMs.

A nuclear warhead needs to be housed in a vehicle that can survive the heat of returning to the Earth’s atmosphere, Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California, wrote on the 38 North website.

In touting last week’s launch, North Korea’s state media said the missile it tested could carry a new large-sized nuclear warhead and had been tested for re-entry. Kim is "firmly determined and committed" to test an ICBM that can reach the U.S. mainland within this year, the Korean Central News Agency said.

Read here for more on North Korea’s ICBM launch

The Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency said in May it didn’t believe Pyongyang has had success with either the booster or re-entry vehicle that would carry a nuclear warhead.

In response to Kim’s 12th missile provocation of the year, the U.S. is seeking further sanctions -- efforts that could eventually include cutting North Korea’s supply of crude oil. But in doing so the U.S. will need to convince China and Russia of the merits of stronger action against the regime.

South Korea’s new Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told lawmakers at a parliamentary session on Monday that Seoul is discussing the option of secondary American sanctions on entities and individuals that trade with North Korea.

NIS chief Suh also said Tuesday that North Korea is on standby to conduct a sixth nuclear test, but this doesn’t appear to be imminent, according to the lawmaker.

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