Friday, April 12, the US raised its nuclear alert status to DEFCON 3, Condition Yellow (out of 5 levels), stating “There are currently no imminent nuclear threats against the United States at this time, however the situation is considered fluid and can change rapidly.” Many believe that North Korea will launch their test missile on or about April 15. Japan has instructed its armed forces to shoot down any North Korean missile that heads toward its territory.
Contrary to comments from the White House Thursday, the Pentagon reported that “North Korea probably has nuclear weapons that can be mounted on ballistic missiles.” This is a very significant admission by the United States and a dangerous change to the Korean situation.
China has mobilized its military and is massing near the border with North Korea. This step was taken after North Korea placed a mid-range Musudan missile ready to launch on its east coast and its “dedication of more facilities at the Yongbon complex to nuclear weapons work.”
According to some sources in Washington, the Chinese military mobilization is not directed at deterring Pyongyang but as support for North Korea’s steps.
Late Thursday, Representative Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Republican, made a disquieting disclosure. He quoted an excerpt from a Defense Intelligence Agency report expressing “moderate confidence” in the finding that North Korea has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles whose “reliability will be low.”
This disclosure raised a furor in the United States, bringing forth a White House response. The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, released a statement saying that the assessment did not represent a consensus of the nation’s intelligence community [16 agencies in all] and that “North Korea has not yet demonstrated the full range of capabilities necessary for a nuclear armed missile.”
Pentagon press secretary George Little backed him up by saying: “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.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Seoul Friday. After meeting South Korean leaders, he travels next to Beijing and Tokyo.
In his first comment on the Korean crisis, President Barack Obama said Thursday that now is the time for North Korea to end its belligerence. He said the United States will take ‘‘all necessary steps’’ to protect its people. But Obama also says that no one wants to see a conflict on the Korean Peninsula and would explore all diplomatic options for resolving the crisis.
Obama spoke alongside UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon after the two met in the Oval Office.