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North Korea missiles could threaten US, says Pentagon

world Updated: Jun 16, 2009 23:06 IST

North Korea’s missiles could hit the United States in as few as three years if the reclusive rogue nation continues to ramp up its weapons system, Pentagon officials said today.

At a Tuesday morning Senate hearing on missile defense, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn pointed to Pyongyang’s recent steps to accelerate its long-range weapons program and agreed with Sen John McCain, a Republican that the US should be prepared for a “worst-case scenario” with North Korea.

“We think it ultimately could -- if taken to its conclusion -- it could present a threat to the homeland,’Lynn told McCain during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Lynn did not immediately know how long it would take North Korea to build a powerful enough missile to hit Alaska or Hawaii. But Gen James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it would take at least three to five years for North Korea to pose a real threat to the West Coast of the United States.

“That’s assuming a lot of luck on their part in moving forward,” Cartwright said during questioning by Sen Evan Bayh, a Democrat.

But Lynn and other Pentagon officials at the hearing said the US currently has enough missile interceptors to protect the US should North Korea launch an attack.