Missile Defense

North Korea: The Hardest Intelligence Collection Target

North Korea: The Hardest

North Korea remains “a critical threat on the United States and our allies in Northeast Asia,” while China continues on a sweeping military modernization plan that “includes the roll-out of capabilities to conduct long-range attacks against adversary forces that may deploy or operate in the western Pacific Ocean,” according on the director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.

Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley was testifying ahead of the Senate Armed Services Committee on threats towards the national security from the United States.

North Korea

On North Korea, Ashley referred to as the isolationist country the United States’ “hardest intelligence collection target.” Unsurprisingly, younger crowd highlighted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s quest for nuclear warheads as well as the ballistic missiles to provide them contrary to the United States. He specifically noted that in 2016 and 2017, North Korea launched more than 40 short-, medium-, intermediate- intercontinental-range, and submarine-launched missiles, adding that although “flight tests on longer-range missiles in 2016 were marked by multiple failures and setbacks, 2017 saw Pyongyang making advancements.”

July saw tests of two Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missiles effective at reaching North America plus a late November launch of the new Hwasong-15 ICBM. North Korea has twice flight-tested a solid-propellant, medium-range missile competent at reaching Japan, which Ashley called “significant because solid-propellant missiles may be prepared for launch quicker than liquid-propellant systems.”

At once, the North is continuing its nuclear weapons program, with Ashley noting that it is sixth nuclear test, which occurred in September 2017, “generated a lot larger seismic signature than had previous events.” North Korea had claimed this became the test of an hydrogen bomb for use with an ICBM. Pyongyang has showcased two different nuclear warhead designs, claiming both as missile-deliverable.

The DIA chief concluded his testimony on North Korea by warning that Kim “shows no interest in voluntarily walking away from his nuclear or missile programs, that they makes central to his security strategy.” However, South Korean national security adviser Chung Eui-yong recently said the North is ready to accept “frank” talks with the United States on denuclearization and would suspend missile and nuclear tests in return for security guarantees.


Ashley also touched on China along with the continuing implementation of sweeping organizational reforms of the People’s Liberation Army, or PLA, which he said seeks to improve being able to conduct joint operations and improve its capability to fight short-duration, high-intensity regional conflicts at greater distances from your Chinese mainland.

This includes the transforming ground and air combat units at corps level and below with foundational improvements, such as integration of contemporary command-and-control capabilities and also the ability from the units to conduct more effective joint operations. The PLA is also strengthening its joint operational command system and developing its new Strategic Support Force, which consolidates cyber, electronic warfare and space capabilities.

He said Chinese military forces still develop capabilities to dissuade, deter or defeat potential third-party intervention during a large-scale theater campaign like a Taiwan contingency. These capabilities, spanning mid-air, maritime, space, electromagnetic and knowledge domains, will be utilized to conduct long-range attacks against adversary forces that may deploy or are employed in the western Pacific Ocean, he asserted, and therefore are most robust from the first island chain. He added that China is rapidly extending capabilities farther to the Pacific Ocean.

According to Ashley, included in this are “two new air-launched ballistic missiles, one of which might include a nuclear payload.” He would not elaborate about this claim, although China is proven to be creating a supersonic standoff land-attack missile having a high ballistic trajectory for export, whilst the other missile might be a big long-range air-to-air missile utilizing midcourse guidance for targeting adversary high-value air assets for example tankers or airborne early warning aircraft.

China’s military modernization also encompasses its nuclear deterrent capability, centering on the Chinese nuclear force’s mobility, survivability and effectiveness meant to ensure that the viability of the company’s strategic deterrent. This includes the development of an array of technologies, which Ashley listed as “multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles, maneuvering warheads, decoys, chaff, jamming, thermal shielding and hypersonic glide vehicles, so that they can counter ballistic missile defense systems. “

With the recent introduction of your viable sea-based nuclear deterrent in their Jin-class ballistic missile submarine and JL-2 missiles, the roll-out of a strategic bomber by China, which Ashley expects to have a nuclear mission, would complete China’s first credible nuclear triad when combined with the country’s Rocket Force and naval capabilities.

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