Can North Korea Target a US City? Experts Say Not Yet

Still Too Many Questions About North Korea's Missile Technology

Very public advances in North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons technology has raised a lot of concerns. Among the biggest concerns is that this might conceivably allow North Korea to target cities on the US mainland, but can they?

Probably not. North Korea will of course claim such capabilities for the deterrent effect it would have, but there remain many questions surrounding North Korea’s ICBM technology, and its ability to accurately deliver a payload that far.

North Korea’s successes have included a new nuclear detonation, details of which are still in doubt, and an intermediate range missile test that went 1,500 miles. Neither of those, however, suggests North Korea could make the roughly 6,000 mile trek to the American west coast.

The two biggest questions on North Korea’s ICBMs, their ability to accurately guide them at such long range, and their ability to allow them to survive reentering the atmosphere, both remain unanswered. North Korea has not demonstrated either such capability, and indeed those ICBMs that haven’t failed outright on launch have tended to break up on reentry, suggesting that the technology isn’t yet perfected.

North Korea’s intermediate range missiles demonstrate an ability to hit the US territory of Guam, but such missiles are wholly unsuitable for targeting at North America. The ICBM technology North Korea has is, to say the least, much less certain than its shorter-range missiles.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of