Gates' Warns About  North Korea; Hopes To Restart Talks

January 11, 2011

Mark Memmott

There's been a flurry of reports today about U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates saying that North Korea could have a missile capable of reaching the western coast of the United States within five years.

And, the Pentagon chief said while in Beijing, because of its "continuing development of nuclear weapons" and its work on an inter-continental ballistic missile, "North Korea is becoming a direct threat to the United States, and we have to take that into account."

On All Things Considered today, NPR's Rachel Martin will report that the key concern is the potential combination of a nuclear weapon and a long-range missile.

The New York Times adds that:

"Mr. Gates is a former director of the C.I.A., and his statement, officials said, reflected both a new assessment by American intelligence officials and his own concern that Washington had consistently underestimated the pace at which the North was developing nuclear and missile technologies."

Meanwhile, The Washington Post says that:

"In a first for a U.S. senior official, Gates also gave North Korea some concrete suggestions about what the United States wants it to do in order to restart stalled talks over its nuclear weapons program: declare a moratorium on both missile and nuclear tests."

According to Rachel, getting back to the negotiating table is important in Gates' view because, "he wants to avoid what's become an unending crisis -- North Korea acts aggressively and the international community scrambles to avert a crisis." Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.