N. Korea is gravest threat to US interests: US gov’t think tank

October 28, 2015

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) — North Korea poses the greatest threat to the United States, an annual Heritage Foundation report said Wednesday, warning that the communist nation likely has already mastered the technology to put a nuclear warhead on a missile.

The 2016 Index of U.S. Military Strength classified North Korea as a “severe” threat to vital U.S. interests, the highest in the five-level threat assessment scale, while putting Russia, China and Afghanistan-Pakistan terrorism in the second-highest “high” threat category.

The North was the only country in the severe-threat category.

“The nation garnered the rating after boosting its military capability, to include development of a likely nuclear-capable missile able to reach the U.S., and ramping up its hostile behavior — such as the November 2014 cyberattack on Sony and opening fire on South Korea this August during the South’s annual joint military exercises with U.S. forces,” the foundation said in a release.

The report by the conservative think tank said that the North warrants sustained attention not because it has any substantial ability to deploy conventional combat power against the U.S. directly “but because it possesses nuclear weapons capable of reaching U.S. facilities and America’s critical security and economic partners in the region.”

Furthermore, a conventional war between North Korea and South Korea would have profound consequences for the global economy, it said.

Though the North has used its missile and nuclear tests to enhance its prestige and importance domestically, regionally, and globally and to extract concessions from the U.S., such developments also improve North Korea’s military posture, the report said.

“North Korea likely has already achieved warhead miniaturization, the ability to place nuclear weapons on its medium-range missiles, and an ability to reach the continental United States with a missile,” it said.

The report also classified the North’s behavior as “hostile,” the highest in a five-step behavioral assessment scale, and its capability as “gathering,” the second-highest after “formidable” in a five-level capability assessment ladder.