Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared in an interview Friday, is “the greatest threat, frankly, to Americans all across this great country.” Around the same time he delivered that dubious assessment, North Korea was staging a military parade to celebrate the 75th anniversary of its ruling party and displaying, for the first time, what appears to be a huge new intercontinental ballistic missile that could be capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads to the U.S. homeland.
For the record: Iran does not yet have an atomic bomb, though it has more than quintupled its stockpile of enriched uranium since 2018, when President Donald Trump withdrew from the multilateral accord limiting its nuclear program. Nor does Tehran have a missile capable of reaching the continental United States. North Korea, in contrast, has continued to expand both its arsenal of nuclear warheads and its missile capabilities while Trump has romanced its murderous ruler, Kim Jong Un. Pompeo’s claim underlined that, in assessing risks to U.S. security, the Trump administration is dangerously out of touch with reality.
Experts are still assessing photographs of the giant rocket displayed early Saturday in Pyongyang on a truck with 11 axles. It is thought to be an expanded version of a mobile ICBM known as the Hwasong-15, which North Korea successfully tested in November 2017. The earlier missile is believed capable of traveling 8,000 miles and striking any target in the continental United States. Experts believe the more powerful version could carry two to three times the payload, which means it could be intended to deliver multiple warheads, or decoys to throw off U.S. missile defenses.
To be sure, the missile has not been tested yet; it’s possible what appeared in the parade was merely a mock-up. If it is operational, it may be vulnerable to pre-emption, because it relies on liquid fuel and because its sheer size makes it easier to spot. Still, the appearance in North Korea of what would be the world’s largest mobile ICBM is vivid evidence of Trump’s failure to contain, much less eliminate, the regime’s nuclear program and the threat it poses to the United States.
Trump has participated in three summit meetings with Kim; at one point, beguiled by flowery letters from the dictator, he declared that they had fallen “in love.” But negotiations on the North’s disarmament went nowhere, in part because of poor preparation by Trump, who reveled in the spectacle of summitry but made no effort to grasp the complex issues. The administration did succeed in inducing Kim to hold off on nuclear and ICBM tests after 2017, and the moratorium may continue through the U.S. election, since Kim likely favors the re-election of a president he has so easily manipulated. But it would be no surprise if North Korea’s new rocket flew sometime after November — and the danger the regime poses to the U.S. homeland continued to mount.