VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE - Senior US defense officials voiced concern about North Korea's nuclear ambitions on Friday as they toured American missile defense sites a day after watching the military test-fire its second intercontinental ballistic missile in a week.
Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work and Admiral Cecil Haney, combat commander of US nuclear forces, said they were confident American missile defenses could counter the nuclear threat from Pyongyang despite a mixed record of success in testing.
"I think when you look at what it's designed for, and that's a North Korean type problem, I think (I have) a very high confidence that we would have the capability," Haney said after visiting a nondescript metal building where workers assemble the ground-based interceptor at the heart of the defense system.
Their remarks were a second day of messaging North Korea about its nuclear ambitions. Work said the test-firing of the unarmed Minuteman III missile on Thursday night was aimed at demonstrating the reliability of US nuclear arms to potential nuclear rivals like Russia and North Korea.
The tour of missile defense facilities was another signal to Pyongyang, which recently detonated an underground nuclear device and tested a rocket in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.
"North Korea as a whole (is) very, very problematic in terms of their thirst to have a nuclear capability," Haney told reporters, citing Pyongyang's indifference to Security Council resolutions and its provocative attacks on South Korea.