Continued from page 1

In early March, the regime announced it would conduct a test of a more powerful missile, depending on the size of U.S. and South Korea military maneuvers, which have included amphibious assault exercises.

Reference to a diversified nuclear force was used in 2013 after the regime conducted its third underground nuclear test by saying it has mastered the design of a small nuclear warhead to be delivered atop a long-range missile.

Reference to “striking forces” also was used in the past to indicate readiness for long-range missile tests for the North’s Strategic Rocket Forces, a new military branch created as part of efforts to convince the world that Pyongyang has nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.

North Korea is suspected of purchasing small nuclear warhead design information from the Pakistani nuclear supplier group headed by A.Q. Khan. The plans originally were obtained from China and sold to Libya, and probably to Iran and North Korea.

Chinese-language documents on small warhead design were discovered in Libya in 2003 after Tripoli gave up its weapons programs.

U.S. intelligence agencies are concerned there will be no warning of a long-range missile test, as occurred with the two recent Nodong flight tests.

Surprise tests are designed to prevent the Pentagon from activating its long-range missile defense system, based in Asia, with interceptors in Alaska and Hawaii. Those systems are ready for any long-range test, a U.S. official said.

North Korea last year produced propaganda videos showing simulated nuclear missile attacks on New York.

Since Feb. 21, the North has fired about 600 missiles, rockets and artillery shells in a show of disdain for U.S.-South Korea military exercises known as Foal Eagle.

On the possibility of a nuclear test, U.S. officials noted that North Korean statements were equivocal on whether a fourth underground test blast is planned. Before the three earlier nuclear tests, official statements said definitively a nuclear test would be coming.

A call to arms, delayed

Ukraine has requested U.S. military assistance as about 50,000 Russian troops and armored forces continue massing on its eastern border.

But the Obama administration has balked at providing Kiev with the aid, and is declining to say what types of weapons and equipment it is considering, presumably to avoid upsetting Russia.

“Ukraine requested a range of equipment and we’re not giving exact details,” Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steven Warren told Inside the Ring. “The majority of the request was for service support equipment such as medical supplies, uniform items and the like.”

Col. Warren said the Pentagon is working with the State Department in reviewing the arms request, “but it’s safe to say that right now, the focus of that review is on non-lethal equipment.”

Story Continues →