A top research group says prototype ballistic missiles seen at recent North Korean military parades may be more advanced than earlier believed, possibly enough to threaten the U.S. west coast.
Many Western analysts dismissed the KN-08 missiles as primitive, non-operational mockups when they appeared in photos of Pyongyang military parades in April 2012 and again in July of this year. But the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said the missiles, even if fakes, appear to be getting more advanced, and have reached the point of being what it called "scary good."
The institute's report said the missile mockups appear to show North Korea can assemble components and technologies "good enough to produce missiles with theoretical ranges from 5,500 to over 11,000 kilometers." That would easily be far enough for North Korea to make good on its threats of being able to strike the U.S. mainland with a nuclear warhead.
The report cautioned the KN-08s are "almost certainly" non-operational and would need to be tested at least once. It said, though, a test could occur any time, given the advanced state of the mockup hardware and recent satellite photos showing upgrades at North Korea's main missile launch site.