North Korea remains a threat but just what their capabilities are is anyone's guess. Despite capability the regime still has to make a decision to use that capability and the repercussions to the use of nuclear/chemical weapons. While the regime may seem unstable I dont think that they are stupid enough to take an action that will cause the end of the regime. Rather I think they will continue to play their nuclear card to get economic assistance for free. www.armytimes.com April 29, 2005 Pentagon downplays N. Korea nuke threat By Gordon Trowbridge Times staff writer The Pentagon sought Friday to downplay what appeared to be a significant new assessment of North Koreaâs ability to strike the United States with a nuclear-armed missile. But Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita left it unclear whether defense officials believe North Koreaâs nuclear program had developed the ability to build warheads small and durable enough to mount on a missile. The issue arose a day earlier when Vice Adm. Lowell Jacoby, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, appeared to say the secretive regime had developed that ability, which many observers took as a significant reassessment of North Korean capabilities. Asked by Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing whether North Korea âhas the ability to arm a missile with a nuclear device,â Jacoby paused before answering: âThe assessment is they have the capability to do that, yes maâam.â Defense analysts reacted in surprise to Jacobyâs testimony, saying U.S. intelligence officials have not previously said North Korea had mastered the difficult technical challenge of mating a missile with a nuclear warhead. But the DIA and the Pentagonâs top spokesman portrayed Jacobyâs testimony as simply a repeat of previous public statements. âHe was not making a new assessment,â DiRita, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, said Friday. DiRita said Jacoby was referring to Capitol Hill testimony in March, in which he said North Koreaâs development of nuclear weapons combined with development of multi-stage ballistic missiles resulted in a âtheoreticalâ capability to launch a nuclear weapon at the United States. Asked if intelligence officials believed North Korea could build a warhead small enough to place atop a missile, DiRita said, âI donât believe we know that and I donât believe thatâs part of the assessment.â The issue is crucial in terms not only of U.S. security, but also the political controversy over the Bush administrationâs policy on North Koreaâs nuclear program. It is generally believed that North Koreaâs two-stage Taepo Dong 2 missile, which has not yet been tested, could reach Alaska, Hawaii and parts of the northwest U.S. Pacific Coast, an assessment Jacoby repeated Thursday. The ability to arm that missile â or a longer-range three-stage missile â with nuclear bombs would place the United States under direct nuclear threat from the unstable North Korean regime. It would also cast doubt on the administrationâs effort to engage North Korea in talks with U.S. and Asian diplomats â so-called âsix-party talks.â That effort appears stalled, with the Bush administration refusing to enter the one-on-one talks North Korea has demanded. Clinton and other critics portrayed Jacobyâs statement as evidence that the policy has failed to reduce the growing North Korean threat.