TIME North Korea

The Pentagon Says That North Korea Is Capable of a Nuclear Strike on the U.S.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance at the newly built Wisong Scientists Residential District  in this undated photo released by KCNA
KCNA—Reuters North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance at the newly built Wisong Scientists Residential District in Pyongyang, in 2014.

The secretive nation has long declined to give a straight answer about its nuclear capacity

Officials in Washington are of the opinion that North Korea’s nuclear arsenal holds missiles that could reach the mainland U.S.A. — but stress that it is a threat that the Pentagon is adequately prepared to face, according to one senior military official quoted by Reuters.

“I’m pretty confident that we’re going to knock down the numbers that are going to be shot,” Admiral Bill Gortney, who heads the U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said of a potential strike. He spoke at an event hosted by the international affairs think tank Atlantic Council on the matter of “protecting the homeland.”

North Korea has long taunted the West with allusions to the country’s nuclear means. Every few years, it announces that it has conducted successful nuclear tests, boasts that are interspersed with erratic pledges to end them in return for economic aid or diplomatic concessions. Authorities in Pyongyang say that recent rocket launches are part of a legitimate space program.

Gortney said that the Pentagon is seeking to update its missile defense system despite the impending threat of congressional budget cuts.

“We’re ready for[Kim], and we’re ready 24 hours a day if he should be dumb enough to shoot something at us,” Gortney said.

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