Murkowski Presses Military on North Korea Nuclear Threat

Senator: Alaskans “Keenly Aware” of our Proximity to Dangerous Nation

Though recent Congressional debate has been focused on the future nuclear ambitions of Iran, Senator Lisa Murkowski reminded her Senate colleagues today of the clear and present danger posed by North Korea – which is now capable of mounting a nuclear warhead on a missile with potential range to hit the U.S.

In a hearing of the Defense Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee, Murkowski questioned top military officials on the current status of this threat and whether Alaska – and America – is sufficiently prepared, asking U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Kenneth E. Todarov of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA):

“From a missile defense perspective…based on what we heard last week [about North Korea], are we where we need to be in terms of response or do we need to step up our game here? Does the President’s budget give us what we need? Given what we’re seeing and what we’re hearing out of North Korea, do we need to be more aggressive here?”

Todarov responded by assuring Senator Murkowski that he is confident the MDA is where it needs to be today to counter the threat from North Korea and although the threat is evolving, the MDA is currently on track “to outpace that threat.” He specified:

We are where we need to be today to counter that threat. The threat is evolving, and there are many things that are on our plate that continue to outpace that threat. Central to all that is the Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR) that is part of the budget in the out years. That speaks to the two most important things we see to continue to outpace that threat you referenced: the reliability of our ground-based mid-course defense system, the interceptor, the [redesigned kill vehicle], the ground systems. Second, the ability/need to discriminate an increasingly complex threat that has counter-measures, levels of sophistication that we’ve never seen before. That’s the direction we’re anticipating the threat to go. The program we have in place will continue to allow us to outpace that threat.

During the hearing, Murkowski also asked Major General Michael Dana (USMC) of Pacific Command for his view of North Korea’s activities and military. Though Maj. Gen. Dana stressed that he couldn’t provide a comprehensive answer in an unclassified public briefing, he responded that North Korea is designated as a “most dangerous” threat and that the potential weapons system the country could produce is a major concern.

(Major General Dana: the Korean Peninsula is the “most dangerous” challenge to PACOM – Click to watch.)

Senator Murkowski opened up her question to Dana by noting the recent focus on Iran’s potential while North Korea has active nuclear capabilities, saying:

In Alaska, we’re very keenly aware of our proximity to North Korea. Last week, Admiral Gortney suggested that North Korean has an operational road-mobile missile that can carry nuclear weapons to the U.S.  On Friday, the Commander of U.S. forces in North Korea said that he thinks that North Korea is capable of producing a miniaturized nuclear device.  What do you think North Korea is up to? Based on what we’re seeing, is there a discussion/assessment about when North Korea would have nuclear capabilities that could land in Alaska? That’s what we’re worried about.

Brigadier General Dana responded, saying:

As we look at the entire region, and all the challenges we have, we break things down into most dangerous and most likely scenarios. And obviously, the Korean Peninsula that’s the most dangerous. And the weapons system that could potentially be brought to bear are a concern.



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