North Korea must end its 'belligerent approach', says Obama
Pentagon plays down intelligence report that regime might have a nuclear missile but says it is prepared for worst
Ewen MacAskill in Washington and Justin McCurry in Tokyo
guardian.co.uk, Friday 12 April 2013 08.25 BST
Barack Obama has called on North Korea to end what he described as its "belligerent approach" as US intelligence officials concluded for the first time that the country has a nuclear weapon small enough to be carried on a missile.
The US president made his first public comments on the crisis as a congressional hearing was told of the Pentagon's latest intelligence assessment on North Korea. The Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) report said it concluded "with moderate confidence that the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles". But it said the missiles would not be reliable.
The Pentagon later sought to row back from the DIA assessment read out in Congress, saying that North Korea's had not yet fully tested a nuclear weapon.
US military commanders have been preparing for North Korea to launch a missile after a new round of United Nations sanctions were imposed last month.
The US has threatened to shoot down any North Korean missiles but it might only do so if the missile appears to be targeted at a US territory or one of its allies such as South Korea or Japan. If the missile is headed out to sea the US might try to avoid further escalation by letting it take its course.
Pentagon spokesman George Little refused to say what the US response would be. "We are prepared to respond to any missile threat," he said.
Little later issued a statement saying: "In today's House armed services committee hearing on the department of defence budget, a member of the committee read an unclassified passage in a classified report on North Korea's nuclear capabilities.
"While I cannot speak to all the details of a report that is classified in its entirety, 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. The United States continues to closely monitor the North Korean nuclear programme and calls upon North Korea to honour its international obligations."
South Korea's defence ministry also cast doubt on the finding that North Korea could make a nuclear warhead small enough to go on a missile. "Our military's assessment is that the North has not yet miniaturised," ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in Seoul on Friday morning.
"North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests but there is doubt whether it is at the stage where they can reduce the weight and miniaturise to mount on a missile."
Obama, speaking to reporters after he met UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon at the White House, said: "We both agreed that now's the time for North Korea to end the kind of belligerent approach that they've been taking and to try to lower temperatures.
"Nobody wants to see a conflict on the Korean peninsula. But it's important for North Korea, like every other country in the world, to observe the basic rules and norms that are set forth, including a wide variety of UN resolutions."
He added that the US would take all necessary steps to protect its people.
The Obama administration remains of the view that North Korea's actions and rhetoric over the last month are bluster and that there is no serious threat yet.
The DIA assessment was revealed by Congressman Doug Lamborn during a congressional hearing. He said the part of the assessment dealing with North Korea had been declassified.
Lamborn, reading from the report, which was produced last month, said: "DIA assesses with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles. However, the reliability will be low."
The revelation came after a Pentagon briefing at which the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Martin Dempsey, refused to say whether North Korea was capable of building a nuclear weapon that could fit on a missile, arguing that the information was classified.
Administration officials know there is much more public scepticism about such intelligence claims after assessments about Iraq's weapons capabilities proved so wrong.
The revelation at this juncture will be viewed with suspicion by some anti-war groups who will wonder if, as with Iraq, it is part of a process to demonise North Korea ahead of military action.
But there appear to be no senior figures inside the Obama administration pressing for military intervention in North Korea to bring about regime change. The policy at present remains "strategic patience", with officials content to settle for containment.
The US secretary of state, John Kerry, is heading to the region on Thursday for talks with South Korea, Japan and China.
Earlier, in Washington, Mark Fitzpatrick, a director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, argued that while "strategic patience" was an answer for the present "artificial" crisis, in the long term the aim should be regime change and the reunification of North and South Korea.
He did not anticipate North Korea willingly trading away "big bang" weapons – the only significant achievement of which it could boast.
Fitzpatrick argued in favour of broadcasting direct to people in North Korea, targeting the finances of the ruling elite and highlighting its human rights record.
"The answer to the question: is regime change the answer? Yes," Fitzpatrick said. "But it is not obviously an immediate answer to the current situation. North Korea's actions and statement, however, reinforce the conclusion that there is only one happy ending to this long-running tragedy: unification of the Korea as a democratic, free-enterprise based republic."
Click to watch: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2013/apr/12/barack-obama-north-korea-video
************John Kerry hits back as North Korea threatens Japan with nuclear strike
By Agence France-Presse
Friday, April 12, 2013 7:30 EDT
US Secretary of State John Kerry Friday demanded North Korea abandon an expected missile launch as the communist state threatened a nuclear strike on Japan amid a chilling new evaluation of its offensive capability.
Kerry, visiting Seoul to give fulsome US backing to military ally South Korea, joined President Barack Obama in decrying North Korea’s incendiary rhetoric — and urged China to step in.
The air of crisis that has engulfed the region for weeks, since North Korea staged a rocket launch and atomic test, was given even greater menace from a US intelligence report that said it may now have a nuclear warhead in its arsenal.
US and South Korean military officials downplayed the assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), but Pyongyang warned of the direst results if Japan executes its threat to shoot down any North Korean missile.
The North’s Korean Central News Agency said that such a “provocative” intervention would see Tokyo — an enormous conurbation of 30 million people — “consumed in nuclear flames”.
“Japan is always in the cross-hairs of our revolutionary army and if Japan makes a slightest move, the spark of war will touch Japan first,” KCNA said in a commentary.
Unbowed, an official at Japan’s defence ministry told AFP that the country “will take every possible measure to respond to any scenario”, while Kerry warned that a North Korean missile launch would be a “huge mistake”.
“The rhetoric that we are hearing from North Korea is simply unacceptable by any standards,” he told a news conference in Seoul alongside South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se.
“The United States, South Korea and the entire international community… are all united in the fact that North Korea will not be accepted as a nuclear power,” Kerry added.
“If (North Korean leader) Kim Jong-Un decides to launch a missile, whether it’s across the Sea of Japan or any other direction, he will be choosing wilfully to ignore the entire international community.
“It will be a huge mistake for him to do that because it will further isolate his country,” Kerry said, adding that North Koreans want food, not a leader “who wants to flex his muscles”.
Kerry also that it was high time for China — whose trade and aid have propped up North Korea since the end of the Cold War — to intervene with its wayward ally if it truly wants to safeguard regional stability.
“China has an enormous capability to make a difference here,” he said.
Intelligence officials in Seoul say the North, as a show of force, has two mid-range missiles ready for imminent launch from its east coast, and South Korea and Japan remained on heightened alert for any test.
Pyongyang has not officially announced plans for a launch, but a state body in charge of inter-Korean exchanges stressed Thursday that “powerful strike means” were in place.
Observers believe a launch is most likely in the build-up to Monday’s anniversary of the birth of late founder Kim Il-Sung, for which celebrations are already well under way in Pyongyang.
The mid-range missiles mobilised by the North are reported to be untested Musudan models with an estimated range of up to 2,485 miles (4,000 kilometres).
That would cover any target in South Korea and Japan, and possibly even US military bases on the Pacific island of Guam.
Obama said earlier that “nobody wants to see a conflict”, but emphasised that the United States was ready to take “all necessary steps to protect its people” and defend its allies in the region.
“We both agree that now is the time for North Korea to end the kind of belligerent approach that they’ve been taking,” Obama said after White House talks with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
North Korea has no proven capacity to shrink a nuclear device onto a missile tip. But for the first time, the DIA evaluation gave official US credence to Pyongyang’s claim in February that it has now mastered the technology.
“DIA assesses with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles,” said the report cited by a Republican lawmaker at a congressional hearing. “However, the reliability will be low.”
But Pentagon spokesman George Little said it would be “inaccurate” to suggest North Korea had shown that it has such expertise, in a remark echoed by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
South Korea was also sceptical. Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok said it was “still doubtful” that the North had produced a ballistic missile warhead.
April 11, 2013Pentagon Says Nuclear Missile Is in Reach for North Korea
By THOM SHANKER, DAVID E. SANGER and ERIC SCHMITT
WASHINGTON — A new assessment by the Pentagon’s intelligence arm has concluded for the first time, with “moderate confidence,” that North Korea has learned how to make a nuclear weapon small enough to be delivered by a ballistic missile.
The assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency, which has been distributed to senior administration officials and members of Congress, cautions that the weapon’s “reliability will be low,” apparently a reference to the North’s difficulty in developing accurate missiles or, perhaps, to the huge technical challenges of designing a warhead that can survive the rigors of flight and detonate on a specific target.
The assessment’s existence was disclosed Thursday by Representative Doug Lamborn, Republican of Colorado, three hours into a budget hearing of the House Armed Services Committee with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey. General Dempsey declined to comment on the assessment because of classification issues.
But late Thursday, the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., released a statement saying that the assessment did not represent a consensus of the nation’s intelligence community and that “North Korea has not yet demonstrated the full range of capabilities necessary for a nuclear armed missile.”
In another sign of the administration’s deep concern over the release of the assessment, the Pentagon press secretary, George Little, issued a statement that sought to qualify the conclusion from the Defense Intelligence Agency, which has primary responsibility for monitoring the missile capabilities of adversary nations but which a decade ago was among those that argued most vociferously — and incorrectly — that Iraq had nuclear weapons.
“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,” Mr. Little said.
A spokesman for the South Korean Defense Ministry, Kim Min-seok, said early Friday that despite various assessments. “we have doubt that North Korea has reached the stage of miniaturization.”
Nonetheless, outside experts said that the report’s conclusions could explain why Mr. Hagel has announced in recent weeks that the Pentagon was bolstering long-range antimissile defenses in Alaska and California, intended to protect the West Coast, and rushing another antimissile system, originally not set for deployment until 2015, to Guam.
Also Thursday, Mr. Clapper sought to tamp down fears that North Korean rhetoric could lead to an armed clash with the United States, South Korea and regional allies, and a high South Korean official called for dialogue with North Korea.
Mr. Clapper told a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee that in his experience, two other confrontations with the North — the seizure of the Navy spy ship Pueblo in 1968 and the death of two military officers in a tree-cutting episode in the demilitarized zone in 1976 — stoked much greater tensions between the two countries. The statement by the South Korean official, Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae, was televised nationally, and it represented a considerable softening in tone by President Park Geun-hye’s government.
Secretary of State John Kerry, meanwhile, was scheduled to arrive in Seoul on Friday and to travel to China and Japan after that. He has two principal goals on the last leg of a six-nation trip: to encourage China to use its influence to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program while reassuring South Korea and Japan that the United States remains committed to their defense.
The report issued by the Defense Intelligence Agency last month was titled “Dynamic Threat Assessment 8099: North Korea Nuclear Weapons Program.” Its executive summary reads: “D.I.A. assesses with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles; however the reliability will be low.”
A spokesman for Mr. Lamborn, Catherine Mortensen, said the material he quoted during the hearing was unclassified. Pentagon officials said later that while the report remained classified, the one-paragraph finding had been declassified but not released. Republicans in Congress have led efforts to increase money for missile defense, and Mr. Lamborn has been critical of the Obama administration for failing to finance it adequately.
North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests, including one this year, and shot a ballistic missile as far as the Philippines in December. American and South Korean intelligence agencies believe that another test — perhaps of a midrange missile called the Musudan that can reach Japan, South Korea and almost as far as Guam — may be conducted in the coming days, to celebrate the birth of Kim Il-sung, the country’s founder. At the Pentagon, there is particular concern about another missile, yet untested, called the KN-08, which may have significantly longer range.
“North Korea has already demonstrated capabilities that threaten the United States and the security environment in East Asia,” Mr. Clapper told the House Intelligence Committee.
He added that “we believe Pyongyang has already taken initial steps” toward fielding what he called a “road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile.” He appeared to be referring to the KN-08, provided to North Korea by a Russian company and based on the design of a Russian submarine-launched nuclear missile.
Mr. Clapper referred to “extremely belligerent, aggressive public rhetoric towards the United States and South Korea” by the North’s young president, Kim Jong-un. And he made it clear that getting inside Mr. Kim’s head, and understanding his goals, had been particularly frustrating.
He suggested that while Mr. Kim’s grandfather and father had clear motives — to periodically threaten the world with nuclear crises, then wait to get paid in cash, food or equipment to lower the rhetoric — the younger Mr. Kim apparently intended to demonstrate both to North Koreans and to the international community that North Korea deserves respect as a nuclear power.
“His primary objective is to consolidate, affirm his power,” Mr. Clapper told the House committee, adding that “the belligerent rhetoric of late, I think, is designed for both an internal and an external audience.”
Asked if the North Korean leader had an “endgame,” Mr. Clapper said, “I don’t think, really, he has much of an endgame other than to somehow elicit recognition from the world and specifically, most importantly, the United States, of North Korea as a rival on an international scene, as a nuclear power, and that that entitles him to negotiation and to accommodation, and presumably for aid.”
Other officials have said, in background interviews, that Mr. Kim is trying to get North Korea into the same position as Pakistan: an acknowledged nuclear power that the West has given up hopes of disarming.
Mr. Clapper appeared with the heads of several other intelligence agencies, including Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn of the Defense Intelligence Agency; the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III; and the C.I.A. director, John O. Brennan, to present their annual assessment of the threats facing the nation. The same officials briefed the Senate Intelligence Committee last month.
Even as they sought to explain the North Korean leader’s recent bellicose threats, which have prompted American and South Korean troops to increase alert levels, Mr. Clapper and other top intelligence officials acknowledged that United States spy agencies do not know much about Mr. Kim.
“Kim Jong-un has not been in power all that long, so we don’t have an extended track record for him like we did with his father and grandfather,” Mr. Brennan said. “That’s why we are watching this very closely and to see whether or not what he is doing is consistent with past patterns of North Korean behavior.”
Mr. Clapper added that with such little information on Mr. Kim, “there’s no telling how he’s going to behave.”
“He impresses me as impetuous, not as inhibited as his father became about taking aggressive action,” he added. “The pattern with his father was to be provocative and then to sort of back off. We haven’t seen that yet with Kim Jong-un.”
As for what might change the North’s posture, Mr. Clapper pointed to China’s new leadership. “I think probably if anyone has real leverage over the North Koreans, it is China,” he said.
Michael R. Gordon contributed reporting from Manas, Kyrgyzstan, and Choe Sang-hun from Seoul.
*********North Korea's aggressive stance condemned by G8 in 'strongest terms'
China and Russia join in pressure on regime as Obama tells Pyongyang: time to end 'belligerence'
Tania Branigan in Seoul and Peter Beaumont
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 11 April 2013 23.53 BST
Foreign ministers from the G8 group of nations meeting in London have condemned North Korea's aggressive rhetoric and its continued development of nuclear missile programmes before an anticipated ballistic missile test launch by Pyongyang within the next few days.
The stern communique issued after weeks of bellicose rhetoric from North Korea follows evidence in recent comments and editorials that China has been persuaded to put public pressure on its ally to step back from further dangerous provocations.
It also comes as new US intelligence suggested that North Korea has the ability to launch nuclear-armed ballistic missiles but that the weapons would probably be unreliable, according to Pentagon officials. The US Defence Intelligence Agency said North Korea probably has the knowhow to arm a missile with a nuclear warhead but doubted its reliability.
The US secretary of state, John Kerry, is travelling on to Seoul and Tokyo, with the tensions expected to dominate discussions in both cities.
In the statement the G8 ministers condemned in the "strongest possible terms" recent missile tests for seriously undermining international security, adding to similar messages that have been emerging in the Chinese media in recent days.
The G8 nations are the US, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada and Russia.
In a sign of growing international solidarity over North Korea's recent behaviour, Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister of Russia – which has been at loggerheads with the US over Syria – said: "There is no disagreement with the United States over North Korea."
The G8 ministers said Pyongyang's aggressive rhetoric would only isolate North Korea and urged the government to engage in "credible" talks on abandoning all existing nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
They urged North Korea to refrain from "further provocative acts", and expressed concern about its plans to reopen its Yongbyon nuclear facility.
On Thursday President Barack Obama warned North Korea that his administration would "take all necessary steps" to protect American citizens, and urged the country's leadership to end its nuclear threats, saying it was time for the isolated nation "to end the belligerent approach they have taken and to try to lower temperatures."
"Nobody wants to see a conflict on the Korean peninsula," Obama added, speaking from the Oval Office alongside United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon.
North Korea claimed on Thursday it had "powerful striking means" on standby for a missile launch.
Despite the recent strident tone of its warnings, analysts believe that the spate of threats is intended to pressure South Korea and the US into shifting their policy.
Although this round of rhetoric and symbolic measures has been particularly prolonged, they believe it reflects the coincidence of joint US-South Korean military drills, the United Nations security council resolution condemning North Korea's third nuclear test, and the coming anniversary of the birth of the country's founder, Kim Il-sung.
The country is often keen to demonstrate its military power and technical progress on important political dates. Officials in Washington and the US say Pyongyang appears to be preparing to test-fire a medium-range missile, dubbed the Musudan, thought to have a potential range of 3,500km.
"North Korea has continuously issued provocative threats and made efforts to raise tension on the Korean peninsula … but the current situation is being managed safely and our and foreign governments have been calmly responding," said Seoul's foreign ministry spokesman, Cho Tai-young.
The unification minister, Ryoo Kihl-jae, urged Pyongyang to engage in dialogue and discuss resuming production at the joint industrial park at Kaesong, from which North Korea pulled its workers earlier this week.
The G8 statement was released amid the first signs that all parties were edging away from the warlike rhetoric of recent weeks. North Korea's state news agency seemed to suggest that the strongest step the country had so far taken – the closure of the Kaesong joint economic development zone – had been a temporary measure.
Pyongyang issued a statement that appeared to be tinged with regret over the closure of Kaesong, which was shut when it ordered its workers out this week, terming the North-South venture "the pinnacle of General Kim Jong-il's limitless love for his people and brothers".
The statement, on the country's KCNA news agency, blamed the South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, for bringing the money-spinning venture to "the brink of shutting down".
Evidence from inside North Korea in recent days has also suggested that reserves who had been mobilised have returned their weapons and gone back to other duties.
Despite threats that it will attack US bases and the South in response to any hostile acts, the North has welcomed a stream of visitors for Monday's celebrations marking Kim Il-sung's birthday. The official news agency listed an eclectic mix of guests ranging from Chinese businessmen to cold war-era enthusiasts of its socialist monarchy and official ideology of "juche", or self-reliance.
Most observers say Pyongyang has no intention of igniting a conflict that could bring its own destruction, but fears remain over the risk of miscalculation on the militarised Korean peninsula. North Korea has stationed five medium-range missiles on its east coast, according to defence assessments by Washington and Seoul, possibly in readiness for a test launch that would show its ability to hit US bases on Guam.
"There are signs the North could fire off Musudan missiles any time soon," an unnamed intelligence source in Seoul told Yonhap news agency.
Apart from the swipe at South Korea's new president, verbal threats appeared to fall off as KCNA listed arrivals for the upcoming birthday celebrations, naming an eclectic mix ranging from Chinese businessmen to Ccold Wwar-era enthusiasts of its socialist monarchy and official ideology of "juche", or self-reliance.
China has also urgedIn a sign of growing pressure on Pyongyang from Beijing, China yesterday urged "relevant parties" to resume long-stalled six-party talks involving China, the two Koreas, the US, Japan and Russia and aimed at reining in North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
"The hope that the Korean peninsula maintains peace and stability is the universal expectation of the international community," spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing.
The Global Times, a tabloid published by the ruling Communist party's People's Daily, underlined the growing pressure from Beijing. It said: "North Korea is sure to change, because its current situation is unsustainable and is placing huge pressure on the country … the regime has taken an extreme path … Pyongyang should clearly understand that it does not have the capability to dominate the situation in the Korean Peninsula."
Another piece, carried by the website of the Communist party newspaper People's Daily, criticised the US, Japan and the South but noted that while the outside world should not interfere with the North's internal affairs, "if its choice and words intensify the Korean peninsula tensions and affects peace and stability in the region, it becomes an international issue. The situation's development on the peninsula will not necessarily go according to the ideas and expectations of the DPRK."
"China's policy towards the DPRK has been changing since 2006 [when Pyongyang conducted its first nuclear test], and is still changing," said Cheng Xiaohe, a foreign policy at Renmin University. "In the past few days we've seen China seemingly ratchet up its warnings to the DPRK – and also to other countries, including the US. But any expectations of fundamental change will be unrealistic. China's bottom line is that it will not cut off its relations with the DPRK and will not turn the DPRK into its enemy."
Click to watch: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2013/apr/11/g8-condemns-korean-threat-video
***********John Kerry: North and South Korea tensions can ease with serious talks
US secretary of state tells Seoul right decisions can ensure peace, and says a nuclear-capable North will not be accepted
Tania Branigan in Seoul
guardian.co.uk, Friday 12 April 2013 12.25 BST
The US secretary of state has stressed the prospects for resolving tensions on the Korean peninsula as he met with leaders in Seoul. "Relations between the North and South can improve very quickly if leaders of the North, and one in particular, can make the right decisions," John Kerry said.
The new South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, had "expressed a vision built on trustpolitik – and I hope that is what will take hold", Kerry added. But he warned: "They have to be really serious. No one is going to talk for the sake of talking."
Kerry, who reiterated that the international community would not accept a nuclear-capable North Korea, echoed the Pentagon in playing down an assessment by a US government agency that Pyongyang had a nuclear weapon that could be mounted on a missile.
The South's foreign minister, Yun Byung-se, added: "We hope the DPRK will make the right choice and engage in trustpolitik."
An expert on the North, John Delury at Yonsei University, said: "The message here was dialogue, but still in passive form: 'It's up to North Korea' … it's still not enough."
Earlier, President Barack Obama urged the North to end its "belligerent approach".
The tensions on the peninsula are expected to dominate Kerry's meetings in South Korea, China and Japan. Washington and Seoul anticipate that the North will launch a mid-range missile over the next few days.
Pyongyang has engaged in a series of angry threats and gestures, such as pulling workers out of the Kaesong industrial complex it shares with the South, and appears to be preparing its launch base. It often carries out tests around significant political dates, such as Monday's anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, lauded as the country's founder.
But Park, meeting officials from her party before talks with Kerry, suggested Seoul should at least listen to what North Korea had to say. According to local media, she told them: "We have a lot of issues, including the Kaesong industrial zone. So should we not meet with them and ask: 'Just what are you trying to do?'"
Nato's secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, also meeting Park in Seoul, said on Twitter that he commended the South for seeking peaceful solutions through dialogue. He also urged the North to halt the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.
"The North certainly seems to be edging away from some of its high-flown rhetoric and having brought in the stealth bombers [during military drills with the South], the US is also starting to ease up a bit," said James Hoare, a former British charges d'affaires in Pyongyang. "I think China is effectively saying to everyone: calm down and let's do something sensible."
But he noted that if the North did test fire a missile it was likely to lead to further action by the United Nations security council.
A US official in Seoul, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters: "Our greatest concern is a miscalculation and where that may lead. We have seen no indications of massive troop movements, or troops massing on the border, or massive exercises or anything like that, which would back up any of the rhetoric that is going on."
The US hopes China will increase pressure on the North. Beijing is the North's main ally and the country is a crucial source of aid and trade.
A report by the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), which emerged at a congressional hearing in Washington on Thursday, said it had concluded with "moderate confidence" that North Korea had developed a nuclear bomb that could be fitted on a ballistic missile, but such a weapon would probably be unreliable.
But a Pentagon spokesman, George Little, said "it would be inaccurate to suggest that the North Korean regime has fully tested, developed, or demonstrated the kinds of nuclear capabilities referenced".
James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said the DIA's conclusion was not shared by the entire US intelligence community. "North Korea has not yet demonstrated the full range of capabilities necessary for a nuclear armed missile," he said.
An anti-war protester wears a John Kery maskduring a rally in Seoul An anti-war protester during a rally in Seoul. Photograph: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters
In Seoul the defence ministry said it did not believe North Korea could mount a nuclear warhead on a missile.
Even so, experts say recent tests and rocket launches suggest Pyongyang is making progress in its weapons programmes.
After its third nuclear test in February the North claimed it had detonated a "miniaturised and lighter nuclear device with greater explosive force than previously".
Hoare said: "The long-term aim seems quite clear: they want nuclear weapons capability and are working on the means to deliver it. The problem is always going to be: what can you do about it? My view is that you can cap but not stop it: you don't ask them to give up anything but say, don't do anything more. You have inspectors and monitoring devices. But to do that you would have to start talking."
Andrei Lankov, an expert on North Korea, told CNN: "There is not the slightest reason to be more afraid than we are of, say, French nukes. They're not suicidal … they are very rational."