WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The claim by North Korea to have thermonuclear weapons and be capable of firing nuclear missiles at the United States fits a long pattern of empty bluffs, retired US Ambassador Chas Freeman, a leading US expert on Northeast Asia, told Sputnik.
“No one can know whether or not the North Koreans have miniaturized a nuclear weapon so as to fit it on a warhead,” Freeman stated on Thursday. “They have a history of grossly exaggerating their technological achievements and have not demonstrated the capability they now claim.”
Earlier on Thursday, US Northern Command chief William Gortney told the Senate Armed Services Committee that North Korea’s KN08 road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile was capable of striking the continental United States.
“If they have produced a nuclear weapon that is deliverable by a missile, it is at present a threat only to South Korea and, perhaps, Japan, China or the Russian Far East. Pyongyang is a long way from being able to strike the United States or other targets at intercontinental range,” he maintained.
Freeman also cautioned that the latest round of economic sanctions imposed on Pyongyang by the UN Security Council was likely to backfire and make the regime more dangerous rather than deter it from further rash actions.
“Sanctions are more likely than not to confirm North Korean assessments that it faces an existential threat from the United States and others in its region, including Japan and China, and must double down on bomb-building,” he stated.
Freeman also said diplomatic initiatives to pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear program had failed because they did not offer any positive incentive for Pyongyang to change its policies.
“The ‘six-party’ talks have clearly failed to inhibit the North Korean effort to field nuclear weapons capable of striking its enemies, primary among which is the United States. The sanctions are not linked to a credible negotiating process. There is no ‘yes-able’ proposition on the table,” Freeman observed.
“Kim Jong-un will not capitulate to foreign threats and disarm its nuclear arsenal. If he did so, his regime would very likely be overthrown by political forces charging that he had sold out the nation,” he added.
Eventually, Freeman warned, Pyongyang would manage to achieve the nuclear ICBM weapons it had sought to build for so long.
“Given enough time, North Korea will achieve the ability to strike the United States with nuclear weapons, notwithstanding the US effort to impede it from doing so and to mount a ballistic missile defense to frustrate its destroying targets in the United States,” he said.
The new UN sanctions would complicate North Korea's path to acquiring an improving nuclear strike capability, but not prevent it from doing so, Freeman concluded.