WASHINGTON – White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said Thursday that Americans should be concerned about North Korea’s ability to reach the United States with an intercontinental ballistic missile, cryptically telling reporters that if the threat grows “beyond where it is today, well, let’s hope that diplomacy works.”
Significantly, Kelly noted that Pyongyang “is developing a pretty good nuclear re-entry vehicle.” For a missile to successfully strike a target it would have to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere without breaking up. Kelly’s comments seem to indicate that the US believes that North Korea is close to achieving what would be a key breakthrough for their missile program.
North Korea and the Trump administration have exchanged a barrage of verbal volleys for months, ratcheting up the tension on the Korean peninsula and around the world as the rogue regime in Pyongyang openly threatens the United States.
Trump has mocked North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, labeling him “little Rocket Man” and promising “fire and fury” if the country continues to threaten the United States.
Most recently, North Korea’s foreign minister said the President has “lit the wick” of war with his rhetoric, according to a Russian state news agency.
Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, told reporters Thursday that North Korea is a pariah that cannot be allowed to threaten the United States.
“The American people should be concerned about a state that has developed a pretty good ICBM capability and is developing a pretty good nuclear re-entry vehicle,” Kelly said in his first White House press briefing since joining the administration earlier this year. “I would believe, I think I speak for the administration, that that state simply cannot have the ability to reach the homeland.”
US officials have rarely offered a specific assessment as to North Korea’s development of a reliable re-entry vehicle but in July, one official indicated that it remained a challenge.
North Korea can currently get a missile “off the ground,” a lot of undetermined variables remain about guidance, reentry and the ability to hit a specific target, the official said at the time.
Kelly added: “Right now there is great concern about a lot of Americans that live in Guam. Right now we think the threat is manageable but over time, if it grows beyond where it is today, well, let’s hope that diplomacy works.”
Trump has used bellicose rhetoric to describe North Korea.
During his remarks at the United Nations last month, Trump threatened to “totally destroy” the rogue nation.
White House aides — and Trump himself — have argued that the President’s blunt style is a departure from years of failed negotiations with North Korea.
“Our country has been unsuccessfully dealing with North Korea for 25 years, giving billions of dollars & getting nothing,” Trump tweeted earlier this month. “Policy didn’t work!”
That rhetoric, however, has not curbed the nation’s nuclear aspirations.
North Korea has tested over a dozen missiles since February, including its first-ever test of an ICBM on July 4.
Less than six years after taking the reins of the country, Kim has tested more missiles than his father and grandfather combined.