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North Korea’s weaker ICBMs aren’t comforting to this Seattleite

What the North Korean government calls the Hwasong-15, a "significantly more" powerful, nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile, is launched in North Korea on Wednesday, Nov. 29. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

On the surface, a comment made by a leading missile expert that a 1,300-pound nuclear payload will “barely” reach Seattle is slightly comforting.

In 38 North, Michael Elleman says the estimated range of North Korea’s Hwasong-15 missile is 8,100 miles, carrying a payload of approximately 330 pounds. That, the Associated Press writes, is “probably much lighter than any real nuclear payload the North can produce.”

Elleman writes that Kim Jong Un’s nuclear bomb must be less than 800 pounds “if he expects to strike the western edges of the U.S. mainland.”

He continues: “A 600 kg [1,300 pound] payload barely reaches Seattle.”

So either Seattle is no longer part of the U.S. mainland, or the rest of the country has already written us off as a loss.

There’s a heck of a lot more land to the west of Seattle, including the third largest Navy base in the U.S., which features a nuclear weapons facility.

And though it is North Korea’s non-nuclear missiles that currently have — according to experts — real distance, a physicist and co-director of the global security program at the Union of Concerned Scientists told KIRO 7 that we don’t actually know about the weight of North Korea’s warheads.

“We don’t know how heavy North Korea’s nuclear warheads are, and the weight affects how far a missile can carry them. However, most experts believe North Korea’s longest-range missile, the Hwasong-14, may be able to carry a nuclear warhead as far as Seattle or will be able to in the near future,” David Wright told KIRO 7.

Maybe Richard Nephew is onto something when he says it’s time to focus less on sanctions, and reluctantly accept that North Korea is a nuclear power.

“There’s been a general reluctance that we are less than perfect in stopping North Korea from going where they wanted to go,” the former sanctions expert told Seattle’s Morning News on KIRO Radio.

He says there’s a good ending and a bad ending. The good begins with that recognition and beginning to see North Korea as a state which has achieved nuclear capabilities that are likely un-reversible. The bad is military conflict, where even conventional artillery will result in a drastic loss of life.

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