North Korea's capability, intensions questioned

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Associated Press

Posted on April 12, 2013 at 12:03 AM

Updated Friday, Apr 12 at 12:04 AM

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — Intelligence officials in Washington and Seoul have differing takes on North Korea's nuclear capability and the goal of its recent spate of war rhetoric.

The isolated and impoverished nation said Thursday that it has "powerful striking means" on standby. Analysts speculate the comment could mean the regime is preparing to test-fire a missile designed to be capable of reaching the U.S. territory of Guam in the Pacific Ocean. But there are various assessments about whether such a missile is capable of being armed with a nuclear device.

It was disclosed at a hearing in Washington on Thursday that the Defense Intelligence Agency -- a Pentagon wing -- believes the North is now probably capable of arming a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead. But the DIA doesn't believe the weapon would be very reliable. In Seoul, South Korea's Defense Ministry said Friday it does not believe that Pyongyang has mastered the required technology.

At the White House, President Barack Obama urged calm, saying "Nobody wants to see a conflict on the Korean Peninsula." But Obama, speaking from the Oval Office alongside United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said the U.S. will "take all necessary steps" to protect American citizens.

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