Is North Korea equipped to attack the United States?
On October 11, 2006, the newly nuclear North Korea took its rhetoric up a notch when it threatened to attack the United States, which has been "pestering" the country ever since it conducted its internationally rattling nuclear test to declare itself a member of the club. North Korean officials are demanding a one-on-one meeting with the United States, but the latter refuses. Instead, the United States insists on multilateral talks and envisions harsh sanctions if North Korea doesn't cooperate. And North Korea has promised to launch a nuclear-tipped missile if the United States doesn't do something to solve the impasse. But does North Korea have the capabilities to carry out its threats against the United States?
Not really. And, yes, kind of.
There is actually no evidence that North Korea has a nuclear weapon, only that it has a nuclear device. A device capable of a nuclear explosion is one thing; delivering that device to a specific location by way of a missile is a whole different story. Most experts believe that North Korea has not yet developed the technology to weaponize its nuclear capability. It could presumably deliver a weapon by dropping it from a plane, but planes are relatively easy to shoot down before they near their target. North Korea's ability to shrink a nuclear device to the size necessary to fit it onto a missile is considered pretty much out of the question at this point in time.
Even if North Korea has weaponized its nuclear technology and can put a nuclear warhead onto a missile, the threat to U.S. territory is fairly minimal right now. North Korea does have long-range missiles theoretically capable of reaching the United States, but a test of that technology in the summer of 2006 was a complete failure. The country fired an intercontinental ballistic missile at U.S. states in the Pacific, but it exploded 40 seconds into its flight. Whether it was headed for Alaska or Hawaii is unclear.
But other countries are more at risk. See the next page to learn more.