Strategic Weapons: February 4, 2002

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The unclassified version of the latest National Intelligence Estimate notes that North Korea and Iran (and possibly Iraq if UN sanctions are lifted soon) will be able to hit the US with a nuclear missile by 2015. At least part of the US intelligence committee thinks that Iran is likely to delay the demonstration of such a missile to 2020, perhaps to avoid a confrontation or perhaps because it is having trouble designing such a missile. While most of the US intelligence community believes that North Korea designed its own missiles (setting a timeline for other nations to follow) others believe that Russian scientists designed the North Korean missiles, providing help that might or might not be available to Iran and Iraq. While North Korea has stopped testing its missiles, it has sold them to Pakistan and Iran, and the Iranians are now offering missile technology based on Russian and North Korean designs for sale to others. China is expected to have 75-100 nuclear warheads on missiles that could hit the US by 2015, assuming its programs continue at their current pace (which is near the maximum possible). The road-mobile DF31 is expected to start deployment in 2004 and the longer-range DF41 (and submarine launched JL2) are expected to go on alert in 2007-2009. India, Libya, Pakistan, and Syria are known to have theater missile systems but are judged unlikely to be interested in developing a missile that could hit the US. The NIE notes that terrorists are more likely to deliver a nuclear weapon to the US than a missile.--Stephen V Cole

 


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