North Korea’s ballistic missile threats towards the United States may one day match its rhetoric, the top U.S. military commander in the Pacific told a Congressional panel, and to ensure defenses are at their best, he suggested placing ground-based missile interceptors in Hawaii.
Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), also told the House Armed Services Committee that he is “encouraged” by China’s recent efforts to influence North Korean behavior and he believes that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “has noticed a change is afoot with regard to China.”
Harris called defending the U.S. homeland his “top priority.”
In light of that, he said, “I must assume that the Kim Jong Un’s nuclear claims are true, I know his aspirations certainly are.”
Harris noted “a mismatch” between North Korea’s long range missile and nuclear capabilities and Kim Jong Un’s threatening rhetoric towards other countries in the region and the United States.
“I can’t read his mind, all I can do is understand what he says,” he added.
“With every test, Kim Jong Un moves closer to his stated goal of a preemptive nuclear strike capability against American cities and he’s not afraid to fail in public,” said Harris.
Over the past year North Korea’s missile program has apparently progressed, despite some spectacular launch failures involving intermediate range mobile launched missiles.
While ground-based missile interceptors at U.S. bases in Alaska and California provide enough coverage to defend the U.S. mainland from a potential North Korean missile strike, Harris believes they might not be enough to fully defend Hawaii in the future.
The PACOM commander told the committee that North Korea is “clearly in a position to threaten Hawaii today.”
“I believe that our ballistic missile architecture is sufficient to protect Hawaii today, but it can be overwhelmed,” Harris said. “Somewhere, we would have to make a decision about which missiles to take out and…