NK missile capability not proven yet: Adm. Locklear

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, July 11 (Yonhap) -- A top U.S. commander said Thursday questions remain over North Korea's purported advanced missile capability.

Adm. Samuel Locklear, who leads the U.S. Pacific Command, pointed out the secretive nation has not yet proven that its mid-range and longer-range road-mobile missiles, Musudan and KN-02, can actually be deployed.

"At various stages of those capabilities, they have demonstrated or shown us something that looks like it might be real, but we have not seen, in the case of the Musudan or the case of the larger ICBM, have not seen a credible demonstration of that," Locklear said at a Pentagon press briefing.

Although North Korea succeeded in a space launch earlier this year, it remains uncertain whether the country has acquired the technology to deploy a nuclear warhead, he added.

In recent months, North Korea made near-daily threats to launch nuclear attacks on the U.S. and South Korea, but now has shifted to a peace offensive, offering high-level talks with Washington.

The admiral said North Korea should first present a verifiable plan for "total denuclearization."

"And that's kind of the bottom line entry of how you would get into a broader set of negotiation with North Korea at this time," he said.

He stressed the unpredictable nature of the North Korean regime.

It has calmed down after months of provocations and threats, but the next steps are uncertain, Locklear said.

He said history may be a guide, citing Pyongyang's track record of provocations, verbal threats, offers to talk and pursuit of some deals.

"We see the cycle going over and over time," he said.

Regarding the possibility of North Korea taking provocative action again, Locklear said, "I don't have a crystal ball on that. History would say that there would likely be one."

The Hawaii-based command has approximately 330,000 military and civilian personnel, which is about one-fifth of total U.S. military strength, according to its Web site.

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