As tensions between the United States and North Korea heighten amid the communist country’s nuclear weapons program, Washington has been on high alert.
In fact, the technological advancements out of Pyongyang have become so concerning that the entire U.S. Senate was invited to the White House on Wednesday for a briefing on the matter, according to Fox News.
The meeting comes on the heels of North Korea’s official newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, publishing an editorial that the country’s military was prepared — with various precision and miniaturized nuclear weapons and submarine-launched ballistic missiles — “to bring to closure the history of the U.S. scheming and nuclear blackmail.”
“There is no limit to the strike power of the People’s Army armed with our style of cutting-edge military equipment,” the editorial read.
Thomas Karako, director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said North Korea’s “miniaturized nuclear weapon” potential was of utmost concern.
“It raises the stakes and increases the risk of missile threats to the region and the U.S. homeland,” Karako told Fox News.
The smaller the nuclear weapon, the farther away North Korea could deliver it — in theory, at least.
North Korea released photographs of Kim inspecting what appeared to be a miniaturized implosion device on March 9, but officials questioned the legitimacy of the photos.
“No reason to believe that is true, or to disbelieve it. No reason to dismiss it or to panic,” Karako said. “I think that our insight into these programs is relatively modest. I think the posture of our military is to assume the worst.”
Dr. Siegfried Hacker, a Stanford professor who directed the Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico — the birthplace of the atomic bomb — from 1986 to 1997, and whom the North Koreans have let into their facilities seven times, recently noted that any ballistic missile that could travel from the Korean Peninsula to the U.S. would have to be “smaller, lighter and surmount the additional difficulties of the stresses and temperatures” of a fiery re-entry into the atmosphere.
“By most estimates, that is four or five years away,” the New York Times noted on Monday. “Then again, many senior officials said the same four or five years ago,”
While leader Kim Jong Un has a reputation for bizarre behavior, the nuclear arsenal and aspirations of North Korea have been taken seriously, as world leaders prepare for a potential sixth nuclear weapons test from the reclusive country.
North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests in the past 11 years, with the last several being the most concerning to the U.S. and its allies.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats updated all 100 members of the Senate on the situation Wednesday afternoon.
The rare White House meeting was held in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building auditorium, which was reportedly made into a “sensitive-compartmented information facility”—meaning top secret information could be shared, according to ABC News.
The senators came at the personal invitation of President Donald Trump after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell requested a briefing.
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