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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: North Korea threat closer than portrayed

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Thomas Strother is right on the mark about North Korea's real intercontinental ballistic-missile capability ("Pyongyang already has ICBM capability," Letters, April 12). As a former merchant seaman, I recall we often talked about such a scenario mounting a mobile missile launcher on the deck of a merchant vessel and sailing it next to an American coast for a short-range launch. But there is an even more frightening possibility when you factor a container ship into the equation.

Containers, in order to load the maximum number in the limited amount of space aboard ship, are stacked both above and below decks. Less than 10 percent receive a visual inspection by customs when the ship docks. The bottommost boxes are never inspected before discharge.

A 40-foot container can carry in excess of 2,000 pounds of cargo. An enemy could simply load a small, lead-lined nuclear weapon in a container designated for the bottom slot. It would be an easy matter to keep the total tare weight of the weapon and shielding below the container's limit, while the lead shielding would prevent any telltale radiation leakage that could be picked up by external gamma ray scanners.

But it gets worse. When President Clinton allowed the U.S.-owned American President Lines to be sold to a communist Chinese "holding company" in Singapore (for alleged payoffs of dubious legality), direct-rail access into the American heartland was guaranteed. APL pioneered the stack train concept in which containers are offloaded at an American seaport and put directly onto an American rail car alongside the dock for distribution anywhere in the United States. Combine this with the lead-lined container configuration, and you could have a megaton nuclear weapon delivered with virtual pinpoint accuracy anywhere in the United States.

And Homeland Security Secretary Janet A. Napolitano tells us the border is secure? I know from first-hand experience that this scenario is not being seriously addressed by the Obama administration. And it's a lot more dangerous than illegal immigration.

JOHN SCHALESTOCK

Warrenton, Va.

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